Downtown changes form once more

Published 7:46 am Saturday, February 10, 2007

By Staff
In a real estate market that sometimes can be filled with more talk than action, it’s encouraging to see things unfold on the banks of the Pamlico River.
The Buoy Tender Station, a condominium project years in the making, is taking shape. Today a concrete slab rests where last week there was only sand. Within the next 60 days, an actual structure should be in place, says Rudy Smithwick, a partner in the project. By October, people should be living there.
Where once stood Snookie’s, a restaurant, there will be a 14-unit condominium project with prices of nearly $500,000 for each unit. For a city looking for revenue, that’s over $6 million worth of property on the tax rolls. It’s not a pipe dream. Only one unit has not yet been sold.
The endeavor was not without controversy. Few large projects of merit ever are accomplished without controversy. It’s been more than two and a half years since the city planning board approved of the concept. Then the disputes started.
There are still some who would argue that the land should remain open space, or a park. Some wanted a restaurant to remain there. Some people didn’t like the way the project looked, and they still don’t. We hope you can agree what may look great to one person, might be ugly to another.
The pure fact is somebody owns that property and with that comes the right to use it. If the public wants access to land, the public, through elected officials, should be willing to pay for that land and be willing to pay more taxes because it will come off the tax rolls. In the absence of that, private owners should be allowed to develop, within limits, the land they pay taxes on.
Developments in the downtown area are somehow different than developments in less historic areas. Washington’s downtown has a charm to it. After a lot of give and take, city leaders and developers alike think they have a project that makes both groups happy and the Office of Archives and History has agreed.
In layman’s terms, the Buoy Tender Station project “fits” downtown.
At the groundbreaking last year, Mayor Judy Meier Jennette called the project “a phenomenally good thing for … Washington.” It is a development she said that Washington has needed and wanted for a long time.
For Smithwick, a native of Washington, the project is meaningful.
During the groundbreaking, Smithwick said he looked up definitions for the word “development” in a dictionary. He found one that defined development as evolving into a more mature form.
Nothing on Earth remains the same. The downtown waterfront of Washington is no exception. Over the centuries it has evolved, flourished, died back and flourished again. Where industrial warehouses once stood, there is open space for the first time in decades. The beauty of it all is that Washington can evolve and not lose the character that has made it special. In that, we hope everybody can agree. It won’t be the same: it is hoped it will be better.