Thursday, June 19, 2014

1 Out Of 4 ?

By some counts the Mayor is now 1 out of 4 for big downtown projects. He has not stopped or greatly altered he CentrePointe block. South Limestone, for all its expense ($7000 a foot?), is working out well. Rupp Arena's redesign has fallen to University's re-emphasis on education if not lack of statewide public interest. The 21c hotel may be his one bright spot.

The Mayor and Council have now declared the Rupp remodel to be in a state of suspended development. That does not mean the the rest of the Arts and Entertainment district, of which Rupp Arena's re-do was initially a minor part, cannot proceed. The 20 acre High St parking lot should be developed and with an emphasis on residential spaces for families.

The property taken for the High St lot was once home to many families. The fact that they were of a lower economic status made it easy to target them for removal or relocation. That much land being used so infrequently is a greater waste than bailing out certain developers. If we desire to expand our downtown's central core, that would be an excellent direction and place to start.

Being that the property is owned by the government, or at least a quasi-government agency, and the desire is to encourage private development whenever possible, the City should “jump-start” the process by lowering the acquisition costs in the downtown area. Developing smaller, individual buildings rather than massive, CentrePointe sized projects and including welcoming street facades to enhance the walkability of the area will work here – as it has in other locations. (Can you say JDI?)

What happens to the seldom mentioned Town Branch Trail and the amphitheater/park to replace the Cox Street lot should take a back seat to reviving our downtown residential scene so that someone is downtown to enjoy those amenities. Driving downtown to walk along a reconstructed stream bed or rebuilt rolling hills just does not do it for me.

So, where are the other glimmers of hope for downtown?

The Main & Vine project may be getting its parking garage (yea?) but it is very quiet down there.

The competing IMAX style theaters show little signs of progress as we near the end of June.

The Kickstarter campaign for a restaurant in the Distillery District grabbed some press.

I am keeping my eye on West Short St. The parking lot beside and between the Village Idiot and Church Street. Some recent property transactions over the last three years which coincide with the creation of LLC's of the new owners lends credence to the rumors of major players inquiring about the space. I need to look more closely for recent survey markings and I will look.

I also hope that the Food Truck days at the newspaper, Cup of Commonwealth and Dad's Favorites will continue the offerings that a goodly number of our young professionals appear to partake.

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