Several people have asked for my position on “Progress Point,” one of the City’s properties. As background, Progress Point is the property near the intersections of Orange, Denning, and Minnesota Avenues. It’s also at the heart of the “Orange Avenue Overlay” (or OAO) re-visioning project.
I am enthusiastic about the new Commission's plans to retain ownership of Progress Point. We can use a portion of this land to solve the parking problem for our small businesses on Orange Avenue, in much the same way City-owned land provides parking for Park Avenue. The rest can be used for greenspace or leased for other uses such as a playhouse, cafes, etc.
Providing parking for our small businesses is incredibly important so they can grow. Unfortunately, parking was something that was NOT adequately addressed under my opponent’s plan for the OAO.
I’m pleased that a new, and much improved, OAO can be put in place that will really help our small businesses. If elected, I will work to quickly finish and adopt the improved OAO quickly.
The story of Progress Point is a great opportunity to share a bit about my background. I have worked in residential communities across the country to develop properties that fit the neighborhood AND are welcomed by the residents. Developers CAN (and should) deliver good development that follows the community’s Growth Management Plan.
In fact, my development experience at Progress Point is an example of how I believe developers should operate. In 2015 the City asked the public for proposals to buy Progress Point. My company, ROC Seniors, was the only company to respond. We proposed a 2-3 story upscale residential community for seniors. It would include a high-end restaurant on the first floor. Our residents could walk to nearby shops and restaurants with very low impact on the local traffic versus the other options such as high-density commercial buildings. Our only request was to “downzone” to residential use, away from other uses that would produce far more automobile traffic. Our “final” offer was equal to the City’s appraised value of $5.7 million.
However, we withdrew our offer when we realized that there was a public parking problem that could not be accommodated by our proposal. I wrote a letter to the City recommending that the parking needs of the local merchants and restaurants was a priority that should be addressed. I recommended that the City find a way to use Progress Point to help the local merchants.
Today, the current plans for Progress Point solve the exact problems that I highlighted in my letter. The City has the opportunity to keep the land. The City can solve the merchants’ parking problem. And at the same time, the City can provide a park setting and greenspace that increases walkability and passive recreation.