City’s urban-design
study must be
specific and practical

Published 2:17 am Wednesday, June 17, 2009

By Staff
The Washington City Council augmented its proposed fiscal year 2009-2010 budget Monday by agreeing to help pay for an urban-design study.
The council will spend $39,500 of a total cost of $51,000 to figure out what can be done to revitalize the city’s downtown/waterfront area. The rest of the money for the study will supposedly come from a variety of private sources in the area.
The Charlotte-based company, LandDesign, will conduct the study.
This new study will be the third to review the downtown/waterfront locale. Last year, the council instructed the local group Citizens for Revitalization to review two previous studies of Washington’s downtown/waterfront area to help develop a new revitalization strategy.
The group took several elements from each of the studies that complement each other and combined them to be included in the new strategy.
Indications are that this new study will focus on implementing practical, reasonable changes to the downtown-waterfront that may help jump-start bigger changes in the future.
At least that’s what we hope it accomplishes.
We certainly don’t need another study long on wishful thinking and short on reality. Even relatively minor positive change at this point may go a long way to entice developers to take chances on our beautiful locale.
Walk downtown or by the water, and you can’t help envision a bustling, thriving area where every building has tenants, and residents and visitors come to shop, eat and play.
We have some of that now, but we also have dilapidated, ugly, vacant buildings that once were showcases for an eclectic downtown.
And that’s a shame.
If the city’s going to pay thousands of dollars for another study, it will have to ensure that practical, positive results come from it. The city’s residents will also have to be fully involved in the process. They know what they want and need, and hopefully their visions will be realistic and can be implemented.
Anything else, as we’ve seen before, is just a pipe dream — especially given the current recession.
It might, in fact, behoove the city to focus on one downtown project — just one — to prove that we as a community can accomplish a goal. We did it with the Turnage Theater, why not with another downtown landmark?
This newest study must focus on accomplishing that initial goal within the framework of an overall vision. Without specific suggestions and attainable objectives, this study will be useless, and we can’t afford that.