Paducah city leaders are finally moving ahead on downtown redevelopment, and for the most part we are glad to see it. The historic downtown and beautiful riverfront are tremendous assets that can benefit greatly from a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district and thoughtful development plans.
But the centerpiece of the current plan looks like a big mistake: Giving away the city's downtown parking lot for a large hotel and mixed-use residential and retail buildings. While the city's preliminary agreement with Weyland Ventures would be a sweet deal for the developer -- gaining possession of the three-acre lot for as little as $325 -- it would be a bad one for the taxpayers, people driving downtown, and for existing downtown businesses.
Eliminating a substantial number of the lot's 220 spots and forcing people to park several blocks away will negatively affect nearby stores and restaurants, as well as attendance to Carson Center and Market House Theatre events.
The proposed 147-room hotel does not have to be built on the parking lot. A study by ConsultEcon Inc. identified eight possible sites in the TIF district where the hotel could go. Several are closer to the Convention Center, which would make it more attractive for convention business.
It would not be unprecedented for city officials to roll back the preliminary plan.
Four years ago, the commission initially favored the demolition of Paducah's City Hall. Wiser minds prevailed, and the town did an excellent job of renovating this historic building at much lower cost than constructing a new one.
Commissioners deserved credit for keeping their minds open, weighing pros and cons and deciding renovation made more sense when all things were considered. We hope they can show similar sound judgment now and give attention to the serious negatives surrounding the proposed downtown hotel.
John A. Williams, Sr.