Council adopts panel’s report|Panel reviewing applicants’ offers to conduct study

Published 8:40 pm Friday, May 15, 2009

Contributing Editor

The Washington City Council voted 4-1 on Monday to adopt the Citizens for Revitalization’s report concerning criteria for an urban-design study as the city’s current position on revitalizing downtown.
Mayor Pro Tempore Doug Mercer voted against adopting the group’s report.
“Once you adopt it, it becomes our plan, not theirs,” Mercer said.
Councilman Archie Jennings, after hearing the report’s recommendations, urged his colleagues to “endorse” it and adopt it as the council’s position on the issue. Doing so gives validity to the committee’s work and makes clear the city supports and appreciates that work, he said.
“I adopt something, and it belongs to me. If I endorse someone else’s plan, it’s their plan but I support it,” Mercer said Thursday in a brief interview.
By adopting the report, according to Mercer, the city assumes at least some responsibility for paying for it and enforcing it. Endorsing the plan instead of adopting it gives the committee latitude to change it if the need arises, he said.
Last year, the city charged the informal committee with reviewing 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 and combining them into a new strategy for how best to use the downtown/waterfront area.
In March, the committee asked the city to consider hiring a consultant to conduct an urban-design study for most of the downtown/waterfront area.
Ross Hamory, president of Downtown Washington on the Waterfront and a Citizens for Revitalization member, told the council a subcommittee is reviewing cost estimates of such a study from two consultants selected from eight who sought the job.
After the reviews are completed, the subcommittee will recommend which consultant should be hired, he said. Hamory gave no details about the cost estimates presented by the consultants.
The next step in the process is for the city to allocate funds to hire a consultant, Hamory said.
The committee wants the consultant to help it prepare a transparent, consensus-driven urban-design plan for the city’s central business district.
“The final product should have an economic component, perhaps completed by an economist to assure that the proposals made are economically feasible,” reads the subcommittee’s report on criteria for the study.
Chris Furlough, the committee’s facilitator, told the council the subcommittee did an excellent job developing criteria for the study and seeking proposals from consultants to perform the study.