Friday, January 14, 2005

Neighborhood scuttle: Robbie's to close; Wal-Mart and Home Depot additions have hit a snag

While earlier this week the City Council of our fair city approved a new statement of their vision for the future, talk at local stores and on the streets are about the realities of the future. The vision statement claims this picture of a Robust and Prospering Economy:
Portsmouth is a financially prosperous community with a superior quality of life. Residents enjoy diverse employment choices from maritime, manufacturing, medical, military, marketing, and management opportunities. Portsmouth municipal government has created an environment that has generated significant private investment resulting in job creation, expanded tax revenue, and one of the region’s lowest real estate tax rates, along with an enviable bond rating.
Meghan Hoyer of The Virginian-Pilot noted in Wednesday's paper,
The City Council pledged Tuesday to make education its top priority, encourage private development and partner with neighboring communities in an effort to make Portsmouth an “unparalleled success.”

Those promises were part of a vision statement ratified by council members who said the document would guide the city’s future development....

The document, which lays out plans for an idealized Portsmouth 20 years in the future, will be hung in City Hall, distributed to residents and posted on the city’s Web site and in municipal offices throughout the city.

It calls for Portsmouth to diversify its employment opportunities, increase its tax base while lowering real estate taxes, embrace new technology, celebrate its history and create a high quality of life for residents.

It has been paired with a more specific set of plans, including promises from the City Council to use Portsmouth’s new Comprehensive Plan, protect public access to waterways and meet regularly with the School Board.
But it's going to take more than talk from the City Council to create this future.

Scuttle on the street is that Robbie's Hardware, long an institution in Portsmouth, is going to announce next week they're closing their doors. Robbie's, as you may remember, is only a stone's throw from Mid-City, the spot city authorities have chosed to take the next stand in getting big box stores into the City of Portsmouth. As I noted back in December, Wal-Mart and Home Depot are headed to Mid-City. Well, or so city officials hope.

The other scuttle on the street is that the Wal-Mart and Home Depot projects are in slight jeapordy. Seems there's a problem with the contracts & perhaps the City announced the Home Depot project before the details had been finalized; and, now, they can't nail down the final details.

The rumor is the City wanted to have a contract clause which specified a deadline for completion of the stores or the land sale reverted back to the City. What we don't want, certainly, here in Portsmouth is two huge parcels of land sitting vacant for years. Without this clause, both Home Depot and Wal-Mart could drag their feet, lock up the land, keep it undeveloped, and just let the land rot while the value rises.

Certainly, were I a big company like Wal-Mart or Home Depot, I wouldn't want some small-time city bossing me around. No, I want the game with my rules and plenty of tax breaks.

So, anyway, officials are evidently trying to come to some sort of negotiated agreement, while the City continues to pay for the razing of the old Mid-City Shopping Center so Wal-Mart can have a parcel of undeveloped land to pave over & built their huge box-like super store.

And, Robbie's is looking at the last year with Lowe's settling in and the future looking bleak (betting on a compromise by the City to bring in the two new boxes) and considering to bring a long-time tradition to a close.

And, remind me again what the City official said with regard to economic development. Oh, right, I remember now:
Sometimes we just have sacrifice the old in order to get the new.
Yeah, that's surely a win-win approach. Not.

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