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November 02, 2007

Roundhouse Lot Surplus And Redevelopment History

::UPDATES BELOW::

As noted in the previous post, Wayne Feiden, Northampton's Planning Director, has provided me with a listing of all the public hearings and meetings held by the City of Northampton concerning the Roundhouse Lot Redevelopment. The document, covering dates from 1972 to the present, states the purpose of the meeting or hearing, the dates they were held, the outcome, and any press coverage resulting. You can view that document online, here.

UPDATE:: I just received an email from a friend who looked at the document, and who noted the EDHLU; City Council Committee on Economic Development, Housing, and Land Use was listed several times as holding meetings on the matter. This piqued the interest of her, and she asked me a smartly inquisitive question. Just who was on that EDHLU Committee? The answer, according to the City of Northampton's website:

Ward 4 Councilor David J. Narkewicz; Ward 3 Councilor Marilyn Richards; Ward 1 Councilor Maureen T. Carney; and Ward 2 Councilor Paul D. Spector

UPDATE:: Just received this gem of a document over the transom. The document is a targeted collection of minutes from meetings of the EDHLU, and aggregates any and all mentions of the Roundhouse Redevelopment Project during those minutes. The dates stretch from March 8, 2004 to Monday, April 9, 2007. An interesting note on each meeting is who and how many members of the public attended. Excerpts below.

From the minutes of a meeting dated Monday, June 13, 2005, at 1pm in the Mayor's Office, of all places.

...Wayne came up with the conservative estimate of $15/square foot. This translates into $150,000 if City sold the smallest footprint and as much as $500,000 if City sold the largest footprint. To construct a building there will cost $5 million for smallest footprint and $10 million for largest footprint. City will collect between $30,000 - $65,000 in property tax.

Councilor Dwight: Plus, City gives up no parking spaces. It costs City nothing additional in infrastructure, service costs.

Mayor Higgins: Every piece of land that is developed in Ward 6 costs us, in terms of police and fire services.

Councilor Spector: What is the time frame to bring this forward to a Request For Proposals?

Wayne Feiden: Our goal is to start the formal process with the City Council in the fall. The Mayor, Teri and Wayne will be meeting over the summer to decide what will constitute the RFP.

Mayor Higgins: City Council must be involved if there is disposal of City property. This situation, too, is a big picture issue that should be part of our sustainable development discussion. And if there is a sale of the site’s parking property, does the revenue become seed money to fund a new garage?

Wayne Feiden: The downside of this RFP process: If a building is constructed, it could be a beautiful structure, but it still blocks the space, and view, at one end of Pulaski Park.
From the minutes of a meeting dated December 7, 2005. (location not noted) Wayne Feiden summarized the history of the project, listing nine points. Number 8:
8. Using EPA funds, we commissioned a design study to ensure that a building could be developed on the site in a way that does not impede the character defining features on the site.

1. Key views, which would be preserved in any reuse, are the view of the Round House and of the mountains over the Round House from the Pulaski Park playground and the area north of the playground and the view of the Round House from the southerly edge of the New South Street Bridge.
2. The view of the Round House and the mountains from the area of the park along New South Street is extremely limited and mostly of an unattractive parking lot, and a new well designed building could improve that view.
3. Some of the currently very limited view of the mountains from the New South Street apartments can be preserved depending on the design of a new building.
Those last two points strike me as bizarre. Especially point number 3. "very limited view of the mountains"? I don't know, that seems like an insensitive and dismissive statement. It almost seems like an attempt to preemptively downplay any future concerns people might raise about that very issue. Has anyone seen the views from the back porches or windows of those apartments? It's beautiful. Yes, there is a parking lot below, but you are also afforded views clear to the mountain. I wonder if the residents of the New South St. apartments think the new hotel will be an improvement on their views from their back porches.

And interestingly, the minutes of this same meeting note that "George Kohout, Northampton Planning Board, suggested that character defining views should be preserved through the RFP process because it would be hard to preserve those through the permitting process."

The whole collection of minutes from the EDHLU that mention the Roundhouse can be found online here.

LABELS: citizen journalism, city government, downtown, development, real estate

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