“Downtown” Redevelopment Added To Council Goals
The redevelopment of “downtown’ West U. was once again a topic of discussion with council members at Monday night’s special meeting, and the subject was added to the list of 2009-2011 City Council goals. Councilman George Boehme broached the topic, saying – much as he did at the last meeting – that current development regulations discourage the redevelopment of the area of West U. between University and Rice along Edloe.
Boehme said that as of now, the city “doesn’t want” anyone go in and build in the area.
“We have zoning and development standards in the downtown area that the last thing we want is for something to be built there,” said Boehme. “It seems to me it makes sense if what we are really trying to do is encourage constructive development, desirable development, we out to start with a set of zoning rules that make sense.”
Councilman Bob Fry commented that Boehme was council’s expert on the subject by default – Boehme owns the Edloe Street Deli.
“I think we ought to encourage redevelopment and I think we have a good opportunity with George here,” said Fry. “He knows what’s going on over there.”
Zoning and Planning Commission Chair Steve Brown said he didn’t think development was at a standstill, and pointed out Jim Reid’s proposed Matthews Market on the former Matthews Motors site.
Boehme pointed out that the Matthews Market project was planned for the same footprint as the existing building, and therefore isn’t really new development.
“I think we ultimately want new footprints down there,” said Boehme, who said the existing setback requirements and head-in parking are not pedestrian friendly.
Mayor Bob Kelly said he is in favor of developer-driven plans.
“It’s going to be hard for us to second guess what a particular developer would want or not want,” said Kelly. “Let then come to us and tell us what they want and let us approve it or disapprove it.”
“I think we ought to give them a starting point that gives them a finite set of rights to start with that are attractive to them,” said Boehme.
Brown told council he thought it would be a good idea for council to hold a workshop session, and the ZPC could bring to the session the minutes from previous meetings in which the topic was discussed.
City Manager Michael Ross reminded council that about six years ago city council developed a plan for “city center” development that included structured parking as a need.
Councilman Steven Segal said he was on council at that time, and the plans included “beautiful architectural drawings,” but that property owners were not interested.
Ross said that if the area were build today, there would likely not be any head-in parking on Edloe, the buildings would be on the building line without the setback and two story, “tasteful” parking structures would be built behind the businesses.
The objective to “develop a policy with objectives for the city center redevelopment” was added to council’s list of goals for the next two years.