"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it," philosopher George Santayana said in 1905.
In 1978, the John Penrod administration allowed Bob Green to move the convention center/hotel complex from Second and Broadway to Barkley Park to satisfy Green's greed to captivate all proceeds and prohibit hotel patrons from integrating with existing downtown businesses. During the subsequent 35 years, the hotel ultimately failed, but the damage to our urban fabric was cast. The convention center is where it is.
Today the present city administration is prepared again to defer to the whims of the developer, rather than afford a vision for the future. In 2009, a hotel developer proposed a 140-room hotel on the exact site of the new downtown hotel, with a proposal for a second 85-room hotel on the site of the former nursing home, should the hotel become profitable within five years. This is the proper site of a second downtown hotel, thereby increasing the potential success of the convention center occupancy by maximizing the room count.
Remember, the Executive Inn had 350-plus rooms, a minimum for convention centers to have a chance for success.
Today, in order to shore up the decision to create a Tax Increment Financing district, the city is desperate for development even if wrongly positioned. The error 40 years ago was to allow the convention enter to escape downtown and not contribute to the economic vitality of our downtown. Today, a second error is imminent -- not seizing the opportunity to enhance the convention center's vitality.
The second part of the city's pending blunder, yet again sticks it to existing downtown businesses. The zones of B-2 and B-2T are the only ones in which the developer/owner is not required to provide on-site parking. This places the parking burden on the city to rectify and solve.
During the past 40 years, since 1978, there has been a struggle to create viable businesses on lower Broadway; it has been slow but steady. Lower Broadway is the strongest segment of our downtown; no doubt the availability of parking factored into the decisions of many businesses to take the risky plunge only now to have the rug pulled away.
It only takes three commissioners with visions of the past to rectify the present and redeem the future.
Nick L. Warren