City Council mulls committee’s request

Published 10:39 am Tuesday, March 24, 2009

By Staff
Panel wants councilto OK hiring consultant
Contributing Editor
Washington’s City Council is considering a formal request by Citizens for Revitalization to hire a consultant to develop an urban-design study for most of the downtown/waterfront area.
Citizens for Revitalization made its request during the council’s meeting Monday. The council indicated it will address the request at its April 13 meeting.
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 group was tasked with taking several elements from each of the studies that complement each other and combining them for inclusion in the new strategy for how best to use the downtown/waterfront area.
The group also asked the council to formalize it to “give it some structure” as it continues to carry out its mission. If formalized, the group likely would operate under guidelines similar to those followed by the city’s former Downtown Development Commission, which was disbanded several years ago.
Group members Chris Furlough, Maynard Hamblin and Erick Green presented the group’s recommendations to the council.
Councilman Archie Jennings liked what he heard.
The group wants the urban-design team to assist it in preparing a transparent, consensus-driven urban-design plan for the city’s central business district.
The group identified three areas for specific attention. Area 1 runs from the west end of Stewart Parkway along Main Street to Respess Street, including everything from the south side of Main Street to the parkway. Area 2 runs from Respess Street to Market Street along Main Street, including everything south of Main Street to the parkway and waterfront promenade. Area 3 runs from Market Street to Bonner Street, including everything south of Main Street to the waterfront. It also includes the area south of Water Street between Bonner Street and the North Carolina Estuarium.
The group also wants that team to provide two “renderings” that show possible build-out scenarios for Areas 1 and 2, which the group identified as areas for economic-development opportunities. For Area 3, the group suggests the team be tasked with providing a drawing showing that land being used as a “world-class park” that includes a performance venue, with that drawing showing if all or part of the former Evans Seafood site would be needed to build the park.
The group met Monday morning, discussing the three areas and what they expect from such a team.
Tom Richter, a group member, said the team would not be developing a planning document. He said the team would create a “marketing” plan for the three areas.
The group, in its written report, calls for the team’s plan to provide “a level of detail which makes it clear to the public, elected officials and future developers exactly what types of development will be allowed and where the development will take place; this includes green space and parks,”
Although the city has designated 1.35 acres west of the Estuarium as a park, that parcel’s zoning classification includes land uses other than a park. The group wants the zoning classification for the parcel changed so its clear that land is to be used as a park, or open space.
The problem with talking about what to do with the open space along the waterfront between the Estuarium and the former Maola plant is that the question of what to do with the former Evans Seafood site keeps popping up, some group members said. The city owns that site, about a half-acre in size and adjacent to the old Maola plant and the south side of Water Street. The city bought the land with the purpose of if being developed commercially.
The group does not want the debate over what to do with the former Evans Seafood site to take its focus away from the remaining downtown/waterfront area.
Furlough said entities represented on the informal committee could help the city pay for the urban-design team.
Those entities include the Washington-Beaufort County Chamber of Commerce, Committee of 100, Washington Tourism Development Authority, Downtown Washington on the Waterfront, downtown property owners and private citizens.
Cutline for corresponding photo: Erick Green (left), a member of Citizens for Revitalization, addresses the City Council on Monday as fellow members Maynard Hamblin (right) and Chris Furlough wait their turns. (WDN Photo/Mike Voss)