- Jun 24, 2010
- Reaction score
I'm disappointed that the mayor vetoed selling the land to VMD, but I'm hopefully that this doesn't represent a setback for development on the Pearl Street lot, or worse yet: another high profile property surrendered by the mayor for some suburban-appropriate development. The fact that a number of other developers expressed interest in building student housing on the lot, however, makes me optimistic both about the demand for such housing downtown, and that the City might write an RFP specifically for student housing on the lot. Some other mix of uses would be fine, but another big box store or parking lot there would be a huge loss.There was some mixed news out of the Board of Aldermen meeting last night. Ted Gatsas vetoed the aldermen's approval of the existing offer for the Pearl St. parking lot from VMD Companies. Apparently two other developers have expressed interest in the property and it will now go out to bid. Hopefully the process doesn't drag on too long.
In more favorable news, Anthem Blue Cross will be moving its headquarters to the former Bank of America building on the corner of Elm and Bridge. Always a good sign to see a large employer move to downtown!
In my opinion, Mayor Gatsas has been all too eager to accept anything a developer proposes for too many high profile sites. From the Elm Street Market Basket to a one-story pharmacy at Rivers Edge to various proposals for Granite Street, in the past few years we've lost a lot of sites that could have had a huge impact on future urban development, because the City under the mayor's guidance has both failed to update its zoning to be more urban-appropriate and been too willing to bend to developer's proposals. If the same fate befalls the Pearl Street lot, it would be a tragedy for the city. And if the same fate befalls the Pearl Street lot when an excellent and exciting proposal was already on the table, it will also be a travesty.
Whether it's allowing land to be underused at the moment rather than holding out for more suitable uses in the future, or turning down a very promising idea in favor of an unknown, the City and the mayor have too often looked for the immediate gain rather than long-term impacts. Sure, it's great to have a downtown supermarket rather than an empty parcel, but was it worth forfeiting the possible site of a future multi-modal transit center and transit-oriented development? And sure, anther developer offered $300k more than the $900 VMD offered for the Pearl Street lot, but is $300 worth it if putting it out to bid means the city loses out downtown student housing? In both cases, the projects that were not built would have had much larger impacts in the local economy (and the property tax base), but the City opted for the short-term gain. I really hope that that is not the case with Pearl Street.
As for Anthem moving downtown, that is definitely good news. It shows that the interest is still strong among major employers to move from the suburbs to the heart of the city, and having workers downtown will definitely positively impact local businesses and restaurants there. I just hope it doesn't mean my dad will lose his favorite parking spot in the garage for when he goes to the Wild Rover.