Worth taking a chance on

Published 12:04 am Sunday, May 6, 2007

By Staff
There’s no doubt the seven-story building proposed as part of the Washington Center project will have people talking.
There’s no doubt some of that talk will be against the building, if not the entire project.
Someone likely will say the building would ruin the appearance of Washington. Someone probably said the same thing about the old Bank of Washington building when it was proposed years ago.
A seven-story building that houses 12 storefronts, 66 condominiums and six penthouses would be a drastic change to the Washington skyline. It would be an eye-opener.
There are some people who would prefer Washington keep its “sleepy, little town” atmosphere. It’s possible to have Washington Center and retain that “sleepy, little town” atmosphere. And too much sleep can hamper growth. Growing communities, like growing children, need to do other things besides sleep to properly grow.
The Washington Center project isn’t inside Washington’s Historic District. That means the city’s guidelines governing new construction in the Historic District don’t apply to the Washington Center project. That may upset some folks, but the project’s developers are playing by the rules as they now exist.
But that doesn’t mean developers Jack Ulrichs and Bill Ziegler can build just anything on the site, which is the block bounded by Bridge Street on the west, Van Norden Street on the east, West Second Street on the south and West Third Street on the north. If they follow through with the plans to build the seven-story building, they will be required to submit a preliminary subdivision plat to the Planning Board for review and consideration.
The Planning Board, in turn, will forward the plat and its recommendation to the City Council. The board could recommend approval, approval with conditions or denial of the proposed project. The council has final say on the plat.
If that plat is approved, the next step would be for the developers to present a site plan to the Planning Board for its consideration. If the site plan is approved, the project may proceed, Roberson said. If the site plan is rejected by the board, the developers may appeal the board’s decision to the Board of Adjustment. If unhappy with the Board of Adjustment’s ruling, the developers may appeal to the state’s court system.
It’s more than likely the project’s scope and design will be modified as it advances toward the construction stage. It’s also likely those who oppose the project will begin efforts to derail it.
Like it or not, the train known as progress is coming to Washington. That train can come through the city and bring its benefits — and, yes, problems — with it, or it can go around Washington and take that progress to the next station down the line.
Is Washington Center progress? And is it the kind of progress Washington wants and needs?
The public will have opportunities to answer those questions as the project makes its way through the Planning Board and City Council, where appropriate. City officials serving on the Planning Board and City Council also will have to make those calls.
Ulrichs said the project could cost up to $32 million to build. Based on that figure and the current property-tax rate, the project, once completed, would generate $192,000 in property taxes a year for the city, not to mention sales-tax revenues generated by sales at the 12 shops on the building’s ground floor.
A penny on the current tax rate generates about $55,000 in revenue for the city. The $192,000 in property-tax revenue the building would generate equates to about 3.5 cents on the tax rate.
The Washington Center project deserves a chance to be built as long as it meets all existing rules, regulations and codes. By giving the project a chance, the city gives itself a chance to grow in an appropriate manner.
After all, that old Bank of Washington served as a catalyst when it came to helping Washington grow by helping finance some of that growth.
Perhaps the Washington Center project can provide some of the “nutrition” to help Washington grow. Give it a chance.