The city of Paducah moved forward Tuesday in preliminary stages of a proposed downtown development project involving a new hotel on a centrally-located parking lot. It's garnered some opposition from citizens, including a petition signed by more than 400 people.

At Tuesday's meeting, the Paducah City Commission held the first ordinance reading of a $72,000 budget amendment for geotechnical analysis and environmental review services on a city-owned parking lot located at Second and Broadway streets, bordered by Water and Jefferson streets. The lot is within walking distance of many downtown businesses and the riverfront.

Back in April, the city entered a year-long preliminary agreement with Louisville-based developer Weyland Ventures to perform "planning, design and development" tasks for this parking lot area. The development would be in the Tax Increment Finance (TIF) district that the city received preliminary approval for in August. Commissioners also authorized $85,185 for required TIF consultant analysis at the meeting.

Katie Axt, principal planner and downtown development specialist, delivered a presentation outlining the project's status and plans, explaining it would include a hotel, off-street parking, public open spaces and "mixed use" residential and retail space. She displayed site plans on screens for attendees to view.

"Along Jefferson Street, is the hotel," she said. "Along Broadway, would be two mixed-use residential and retail buildings. In the middle, is off-street public parking and then, along Water and along Second Street, we have two public open spaces."

She reiterated that the project is in preliminary stages and addressed three areas of public feedback: parking concerns; its impact on Barbecue on the River; and vacant, historic buildings.

"There is still off-street parking, that is part of this proposed development, and also we are undertaking a parking assessment," Axt said. "That is some of our planned work -- that we'll be looking at capacity, as well as how do we manage our existing parking better."

She later said the current proposal "does not conflict" with Barbecue on the River, noting that much of the annual event's activity happens on the street. New development can help support redevelopment in historic downtown, she said, referring to vacant buildings.

"Over the last four years, we've done over 87 projects to support historic downtown," she said. "The city, through its downtown development programs, has given a million dollars in grants. We have seen, year after year, several businesses opening up in downtown and this has spurred millions of dollars -- $5 million dollars -- in the last four years alone in private sector investment."

Several citizens made public comments to voice their concerns on this development project, including downtown business owners Randall Knight and Rebecca Ausbrooks, along with realtor/real estate developer Alberta Davis.

"I'm looking at a picture where half the square footage of that block is gone and I've got somebody telling me they're going to expand, put in park areas, expand the gazebo family area and they're going to put down a hotel and a whole row of retail buildings and that it's not going to take away any parking," said Knight, of Antique Galleria on Jefferson Street.

"I don't believe in unicorns, ya'll. I mean, you're adding requirements for parking. Adding requirements, taking away square footage and you're telling me that we're not going to be missing any parking spots."

After the meeting, Ausbrooks and Davis said more than 400 people have signed a petition asking the city to reconsider the plan. The petition cites several concerns, such as parking and downtown festivals and events.

"All the comments I have ever heard from anybody in Paducah is they don't want the hotel down there," Ausbrooks, who owns Paducah Antique Mall, told commissioners. "They want it in a different spot, and if we are losing more parking spots but we're going to be creating more residential homes, more businesses -- then we're still going to need even more parking, so that's sort of a conundrum there."

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