Council, panel to discuss downtown revitalization

Published 9:04 am Saturday, March 14, 2009

By Staff
Contributing Editor
Washington’s City Council wants a face-to-face meeting with the group looking at ways to revitalize downtown. After that meeting, it could offer the group formal status and act on its recommendation to hire consultants to help the revitalization process.
That meeting between the council and the Citizens for Revitalization is scheduled to take place during the council’s March 23 meeting.
Chris Furlough, chairman of Citizens for Revitalization, asked the council during its meeting Monday to consider formalizing the group and give it “more structure” so it can carry out its mission. Last year, the city charged the informal committee to review two previous studies of Washington’s downtown/waterfront area to help develop a new revitalization strategy for that area.
The committee was tasked with taking several elements from each complementary study and combining them into a new revitalization strategy, he said. The Renaissance Plan was adopted by the city in 1996, the Dickson strategy was accepted in 2005. Some elements of the Dickson and Renaissance plans have been implemented.
Furlough told the council that though differences of opinion regarding downtown and the waterfront have been voiced at committee meetings, consensus has been reached on several issues. At a council meeting in December, Furlough said coming up with a “unified vision” was not going to be easy because people have presented differing views on how the downtown/waterfront area should be used.
He expressed similar views Monday, adding that it’s been a challenge for the committee to mold extreme views into an acceptable consensus.
Washington resident Robert J. Martin Jr. said Thursday he is opposed to another consultant being hired to develop a plan to revitalize downtown. That’s not needed, he said. He’s also believes the committee strayed from its mission.
Martin, whose wife, Judy, was the Washington Garden Club’s representative on the committee, said he became frustrated with what he believes is a small group of people “with an agenda” focused on a riverfront hotel and not on the committee’s mission.
Furlough concluded his comments to the council by summarizing the committee’s goal: To formulate ideas to promote economic prosperity and improve quality of life in the downtown/waterfront area.
Most committee issues are resolved
At the council’s meeting, Furlough said there were seven development downtown-area considerations on which consensus has been reached by the committee. They are:
n Finding ways to link Main Street to the Pamlico River.
n Public and private parking areas for expanded commercial activity.
n Create an opportunity for up to $90 million in new “tax-paying” construction and adaptive reuse of existing buildings.
n A premier space such as a performance venue for public use and assembly.
n Promote downtown as the city’s central business district.
n Develop a vehicle/pedestrian traffic circulation plan that connects people with various locations within the downtown/waterfront area.
n Develop a strategy, including a financing component, for implementing the committee’s recommendations.