Thursday, January 8, 2009

FUD – Fear Uncertainty and Doubt over the Market Building

If anything was clear at Monday’s Council Meeting it was fear of spending $160,000 for another Market design. Uncertainty that the three concepts would produce nothing more than what had been conceived by a coalition of businesses headed by Downtown Roanoke, Inc. and the $100,000 downtown design concept of Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company completed in 2006. Doubt on whether the City could afford this additional capital improvement project at all. Ann Shawver, Director of Finance, had said in December when presenting the preliminary 2009 budget that “there is no room for any additional projects … if the Market building will come on as a priority CIP then something else has to come off.”

It was clear that City administration believed that this was the way to go. Brian Townsend, Assistant City Manager for Community Development, said “the more choices Council had in terms of designs [that included] budget considerations would make for a better decision.” Townsend repeated what he had expressed to Council at their September 2008 retreat that costs only escalate as they transition from the concept stage to the reality stage. The consultants would hold a public meeting where they could hear input from the public for themselves without the filter of city administration. The public meeting held in September of 2008 varied from keep it the same to total redesign of the building. The September comments are on the city’s website along with the results of the customer survey that revealed that a majority of customers wanted it to remain “as is” with some minimal improvements. Townsend believes the critical piece is in the first 3 concepts that will come out of the first public meeting. The critical factor that Council’s decision will hinge on is the varying cost of the three concepts and if the concepts would allow for monetarily incremental renovation.

Cal Johnson, Chair of DRI, and Bill Carder, President of DRI, both made their case for “tweaking” their $7.5 million original design. Townsend said that Bill Carder’s comment on “tweaking it some [DRI concept] – what does tweaking mean if you don’t have multiple concepts for the community and Council to look at as we emerge out of this process.”

Anita Wilson, co-owner of Burger in the Square, listened as the discussion went on for over an hour. Caught in the middle of the wrangling she expressed exhaustion after years of “FUD.” Wilson agreed that Council and the Administration could show the concern they expressed verbally by having the consultants meet with the tenants separately. “After all it was their livelihood that was at stake,” said Wilson. Wilson said David Estrada, “Chico”, will not be renewing his lease the end of February so it is safe to say that “Chico is not happy.”

The vote after a procedural snafu was 4-3 with Nash, Price, and Rosen voting “no.” The snafu was due to leaving off the wording “Pursuant to the provisions of Section 12 of the City Charter, the second reading of this ordinance by title is hereby dispensed with.” This now requires that Council have a “second reading” at the next Council meeting on Thursday, January 22nd. The Thursday meeting was a result of the Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday on Monday, the 19th and the Presidential inauguration on the 20th.

When contacted by phone John Fishwick, the Market tenant’s attorney, said he would be meeting with Anita Wilson and the other vendors to discuss their options that includes proceeding with the lawsuit against the City for neglecting the building that they claim caused the tenants to lose business and revenue.

Assuming that the “second reading” yields the same 4-3 results the firm of Cunningham + Quill Architects, PLLC of Washington, DC would begin public meetings in February with an expected final report in June.

Posted By Valerie Garner

Categories: Roanoke City Politics

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