The December DMCC meeting was an interesting showdown between locals versus out-of-towners, and the locals lost.
The City representatives (Council President Randy Staver and Council Member Ed Hruska) fell over themselves trying to persuade the DMCC Board to give them enhanced tax increment financing powers for a ho-hum hotel on Second Street SW. The DMCC Board members balked at the suggestion that this enhanced TIF power – a power that no other city in the state has – would go to something as pedestrian as more parking and a tunnel for a Holiday Inn.
I have a number of issues with this particular project, but chief among them is competitive advantage. The City Council is picking winners and losers – and I don’t say that lightly. When a private developer proposes something that gives them a competitive advantage (a direct tunnel to St. Mary’s) over other similar businesses in the area, and then asks the City to pay for it, I have a problem.
A better way to accomplish connectivity between St. Mary’s and the North side of Second street (and West across 14th Avenue) is to design a tunnel or skyway system that is comprehensive and includes activating the street level and providing great transit and bus amenities. This can’t be done without consulting the surrounding business owners and the community. Create a plan, and then work to find projects that enhance the plan and contribute to the infrastructure financing plan instead of driving it.
DMC ED staff dropped the ball when they brought this forward. The EDA is designed to make sure that the DMC plan is implemented effectively. A project without a defined scope and not part of a plan that moves DMC forward in a real and easily explained way should never have gotten to the DMCC Board at all.
I’m just glad that the DMCC Board seems willing to uphold a higher standard for development than our local officials. What’s disturbing is that the DMCC Board is made up mostly out-of-towners. Why do these people that don’t even live here care more about design and strategy than our own city council?
I’ll let you answer that question yourselves, but it’s one of the reason’s I’m running for City Council President. I promise I’ll have higher standards.