Thursday, July 24, 2008

Race, macro-economics, and the City of Portsmouth

I continue to be stunned at the mayor's comments concerning the Renaissance Hotel. I'm thunderstruck, frankly, and wish, with my all my heart, we could move beyond incendiary comments such as these:

Video: Mayor James Holley Portsmouth

While I haven't been a fan of the plan for a hotel and conference center at Victory Crossing, I understand the desire to have an inexpensive place to meet. I do think, however, there are more locations around than Senator Lucas is willing to admit. I also believe that the current national and regional economic state must be taken into consideration. We are in rough times, and more rough times are ahead. Frankly, I don't think this project will fly as is without public funds. And, if it can't stand on it's own, now is not the time to throw good money after bad. The City of Portsmouth already is on the hook for a number of completed and proposed projects. We don't need another. Senator Lucas and her backers are just a couple years too late... or perhaps a couple of years too early.

Over at Pilotonline, Terry Danaher, a resident of Portsmouth, wrote a letter to the editor that is on-the-money about the scope and economics of the project. In full, the letter reads:
As someone who worked for years at a university conference center, I am somewhat skeptical that the potential profits would materialize for the hotel-convention center proposed by Portsmouth state Sen. Louise Lucas ('Who's in?' and 'Who's not?' front page, July 22).

The target audience seems to be groups who, according to The Pilot articles, are 'frustrated at the cost of renting facilities' and looking for a local alternative to more expensive venues. These are precisely the groups not willing to pay the high cost of services catering, room set-up, audio-video support, etc. provided at convention centers.

Sen. Lucas' original idea for a large and elegant meeting place (with a prep kitchen for those groups wishing to self-cater, or to bring in their own caterers), is a much better, more realistic plan, and one the community could easily support. It would provide much-needed meeting space at reasonable cost to Portsmouth residents, Tidewater Community College students and faculty, and people outside the city who are also frustrated at the cost of large service-oriented venues in Hampton and Virginia Beach.

Further, it would not compete with the Portsmouth Renaissance Hotel & Conference Center since these groups wouldn't go there in the first place because of space and cost limitations.

I, for one, would happily invest my own funds and tax dollars in such a project.

As to the mayor's comments, I'll chalk it up to dementia and leave it at that. Although, as regular readers can likely surmise, I'll not be able to leave it at that as it warrants discussion.

My thanks to Scott from Scott's Morning Brew for the embed code to Mayor Holley's comments.

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