[Vision2020] Important meeting at City Hall tomorrow morning

Rosemary Huskey donaldrose at cpcinternet.com
Wed Feb 25 13:13:12 PST 2015


Tomorrow morning during a 7:00 a.m. Urban Renewal
<http://moscowura.com/content/WYSIWYG/Agenda%2002-26-15.pdf>  meeting at
City Hall, Gary Reidner will announce the winner of the proposals for the
Legacy Landing development at the corner of Sixth and Jackson.  The Daily
News covered this story extensively this morning (Thank you Terri Harber)
but I wanted to add some additional background.  I’ve spent the last week
trying to get up to speed on the issues because the outcome has a profound
effect on Moscow the surrounding area.

Gritman Hospital, in collaboration with Latah Community Health (CHAS aka
Community Heath Association of Spokane) proposes a building that will
provide expanded health care services including dental and mental health
(which are desperately needed) on a sliding fee schedule or at no cost for
low income and uninsured citizens.  Gritman’s ethically grounded and
beautifully designed facility which will serve unmet medical needs on the
Palouse will also provide significant professional and skilled staff
employment opportunities with commensurate wages.  It is positioned to
become a model for communities throughout the Northwest, notwithstanding the
rapidity with which it will become a valued member of the local business
community. The Clinic plan includes a cooperative training and mentoring
program with WAMI medical students at the University of Idaho. 

In competition, is a project proposed by the present partners of Sangria
Grill, Carley Lilly and George Skandalos. Their three story building
includes a restaurant / commercial space on the ground floor; 18 (300 sq.
ft.) mini- apartments – which do not appear to be handicapped accessible ( I
hope that issue will be clarified tomorrow) on the second floor; and a roof
top bar and raised bed planters on the top floor.  For the life of me, I
can’t imagine how the oh so trendy mini-apartments in the over-crowed urban
spaces of London, New York City, Seattle, and Portland found their way to
Moscow, but it does not seem to fit any recognized demographic or commercial
need.  Moscow is not an urban center, with limited housing opportunities.
How eager would any of you be to live within a stone’s throw of the only
North – South highway in Idaho, (gotta love those chip trucks) stacked above
a restaurant / potential commercial space and wedged under a roof top bar?
This is a veritable Dagwood Sandwich of a building.  It seems silly to think
for even a nanosecond that the mini-apartments will provide what is commonly
known as “affordable housing.”   Nothing is sadder (or more transparent)
than substituting  what I believe are the deeply held community values of
caring for those in need of accessible medical, dental and mental health
services in order to accommodate the elitist desire for another restaurant/
chic housing/ and a pretentious roof top bar (partially funded by local tax

According to URA guidelines:

“Urban renewal and revenue allocation financing are the most significant
tools available to Idaho communities for attracting and retaining
businesses, generating economic development, promoting job creation and
encouraging development of deteriorating and underutilized areas.”  Source

If economic development and promoting job creation is a URA goal, how does a
restaurant and bar fit that criterion?  Typically food service
establishments are low wage (often below minimum wage) jobs with no benefits
and high employee turnover. In this instance there may be limited job
creation since an existing Sangria restaurant will simply be switching
locations.  I suppose the tenement-like arrangement of mini-apartments is
intended to generate additional income for investors.  But who knows what
financial plans are pending since the Sangria proposal contains not a single
word about financial issues. This absence represents a major oversight.  How
seriously can proposal reviewers, let alone taxpayers, take a proposal that
refused to include any information about funding expectations, private
investor or financial institutional backing, or even expected financial
support from taxpayers via the URA?  A slickly designed proposal is
meaningless when it is composed of unverifiable fluff and pie in the sky
thinking.  Why is all financial information absent? How did the failure to
provide financial data escape the notice of Mr. Reidner and the review
committee?  This lapse alone should have been a monstrous red flag. 

What will these proposals cost tax payers in URA funding?  The Gritman /
CHAS proposal is clear.  They are paying market value for the land – and are
not asking for any URA funding.  The Gritman /CHAS building will be ready
for occupation in ten to twelve months – i.e., early 2016.  The Sangria
proposal is a five year construction project with obviously long term
traffic disruption on Highway 95 south and unsightly and intermittent
construction at a busy community corner.

The attraction of another restaurant amongst a veritable cluster of similar
businesses offers little in the way of fresh, innovative uses of the land.
Compared to the unique academic contributions offered by professional
collaboration between the CHAS clinic and the UI WAMI program, which could
reasonably be expected to bring long term benefits to the community and
surrounding area, the Sangria proposal lacks both imagination and lasting
connection to the community.   The CHAS clinic building will offer a
permanent home for local blood drives which also reinforces the UI/
community connection.  Students are strong supporters of blood drives and a
dedicated space in a medical facility serves as another link between campus
life and the larger world.  The number of professional providers and
para-professional staff will enrich the local economy –  the old cliché “A
rising tide raises all boats” is applicable in this competition.

So, speaking of rising, please rise and shine early tomorrow morning to
attend this meeting.  The outcome matters.

Rose Huskey











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