Monday, November 17, 2008

It might be cold outside, but things in Portsmouth are heating up

Originally uploaded by gbyrne2.
And not in a good way. Jen McCaffery of the Virginian-Pilot tells us Portsmouth project at Holiday Inn site held back:
The developer of the city's premier piece of riverfront real estate is struggling to get financing, a city official said last week.

In February, Dallas-based Lincoln Property Co. reached an agreement with the city to build about 450 residential units, two parking garages, and commercial space on the site of the former Holiday Inn Olde Towne Portsmouth hotel. The developer requested an extension in June to line up financing and present designs for the $158 million project.

Lincoln is scheduled to report back to city leaders next month, but financing is still an obstacle, Kathy Warren, Portsmouth Redevelopment and Housing Authority's director of development, said.
Let me offer two suggestions.

First, listen to the urban development consultant to whom you've given tens of thousands of dollars for his advice. Why pay for his counsel and then totally ignore it. Ray Gindroz has been working with the city for more than a decade, and he told the city to hold off on developing the Holiday Inn site. He suggested working the other end of Crawford Street (yes, the damn circle was his idea) and make it complete.

And then work the Holiday Inn site.

Why? To increase the value. The Holiday Inn site is the last super plot of land in Portsmouth, and to do it half-assed will do much more harm than good.
Despite the economy, Portsmouth officials refuse to scale back the project and do not want to jeopardize quality.

"We have one opportunity to do this," Warren said. "This property is a jewel."

The site is probably the most desirable piece of waterfront land in the region, Vice Mayor Bill Moody Jr. said.

"I'd rather wait the economy out than go for a lesser project," he said.
Bingo. Check out that photo with this post; it's almost the view from the property. It's worth a fortune.

So, hold off. Bull doze the property and plant grass. A park. For a year. For a decade. For however long it takes to get all the elements of the plan in place.

My second suggestion: Maybe next time you can look past your own pockets and agendas, and choose a developer with a proven track record of commitment to Portsmouth.

Just a thought. Or two.

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