Would you support capping the south part of the Downtown Loop, and in the future, maybe turning the north part of the loop into a high speed boulevard?
I would very much like to see a downtown that is more pedestrian friendly, and I agree that the freeway canyons on the north and south sides of central downtown are barriers to that. It would be nice if there were a way to redo one or both of those freeways -- turning the south loop into a green connection between downtown and the crossroads; connecting the City Market to the core of downtown.
But I have to say these are low on my list of downtown priorities. We’ve got to digest some of the big projects already underway. I don’t think we’re in a position, at this point, to go get another couple hundred million dollars to cap the south section of the loop. And I don’t believe that the interstate highway regulations would allow us to even consider changing the north section to a boulevard any time soon.
In the meantime, we should concentrate on re-introducing pedestrians to our sidewalks, and vice versa. We should be able to find some inexpensive means to get people walking downtown again.
Would you support a 1,000-room convention center hotel, and a 200-room hotel that could be constructed with the 240-unit residential tower in the Power and Light District?
If the market wants to do it, God bless them. Good luck. But I wouldn’t spend a dollar of public money on another hotel. We are currently propping up several hotels downtown, and we just agreed to prop up another one in Briar Cliff. There is a whole bunch of serious research done by economic pros that show the link between bigger, fancier convention hotels and increased business just isn’t there.
Do you support the redevelopment of the riverfront area near the present riverfront park?
If there is one piece of downtown property that should be redeveloped without city-created incentive plans, it is that tract along the Richard L. Berkley Riverfront Park. The city already has built the park and facilitated the clean up of the empty 55 acres adjacent to it. The Port Authority has been seeking proposals for its redevelopment, but I hope they don’t come to the city asking for financial help.
We don’t yet have a strategic plan for these types of incentives. We’re doing impulse buying. We have bitten off a huge amount in downtown. We are talking about another mammoth project for the east village. We’ve got a lot on our plate, and I’d be reluctant to add more right now.
What would you do to help eliminate a large majority of the surface parking lots in Downtown?
I do think surface lots are blight and an impediment to making downtown more pedestrian friendly. But you can’t eliminate them until there is a higher, better use demanded for the property. We have to get downtown rolling to the point where the person who owns the lot can make more money putting building on it than as a parking lot. In the medium term, the way to deal with surface parking lots is to have an excellent transit system that will reduce their need.