Friday, May 2, 2008

(editorial) Pavilion Vote: Not an Indication of Anti-Development

Excelsior has, rightly or wrongly, long had a reputation of being a difficult place to redevelop. Land use restrictions, historical preservation, and building codes have been cited as reasons why developers don't see Excelsior as a profitable place to invest.

With the recent rejection of the lakefront Pavilion, I can envision that outside developers will add it to their list of examples of why Excelsior is not developer-friendly. I can hear it now: "Someone was willing to build a lakefront pavilion and a parking ramp for the city at no cost, but the residents didn't want change."


In dealings with residents of Excelsior, I find that people are very open to renewal. Be it a run-down home or a burned-down hardware store, there is more than enough support to redevelop the city in a tasteful and gradual manner. I can name several sites, probably a dozen, in the city limits of Excelsior where there would be near-unanimous support for redevelopment of an underutilized lot. The problem is that the lakefront isn't one of them.

This was a nice idea for the wrong site. Excelsior's identity is that of a lakefront village. If you take the lakefront or the village aspect away, residents will speak up. The pavilion proposal was akin to wanting to develop a building in Washington DC -- at face value, sounds great. But then we learn that the desired location is on the Mall, in between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument. Out of the question.

That example might be a bit extreme, but scale it down several times and you begin to understand the impact that lakefront development has on Excelsior's identity.

I hope more ideas come along that would make use of underutilized Excelsior lots, and do so with private developers being creative on how to enhance the city. They may not all be approved, but the ones that are will become part of Excelsior's identity for future decades and will be met with enthusiastic support from residents.

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