Friday, August 19, 2011

Questions for City Council Beyond Wang Hall

Now that "516 Northwestern" has been approved by the Area Plan Commission, several questions suggest themselves prior to the City Council's consideration of the matter on September 6th :

1) Are the parking spaces claimed really there?

This is the most immediate and practical question and sets the tone for all the others. By rights, the APC staff admits, the project would likely require over 300 spaces. Worst case? 600 spaces. The number 220 was clearly a compromise. Given 78 surface spaces, the Northwestern garage, which was thought to be near capacity at the time of the demolition of Phi Kappa Tau in October 2007, needs to have 142 - 222 spaces available. The West Lafayette City Council defeated (5-2) a high density plan APC presented last winter (Ordinance #27-10) for Chauncey Village and Northwestern Ave. after then First District Councilor Jon Hoggatt led his colleagues on a field trip to count the parking spaces listed in the APC report. We could not find them.

A "Point in Time" survey of the Northwestern Ave. parking garage would seem to be appropriate.

2) What will be the University and/or the Research Foundation's financial contribution be to the redevelopment imagined in the Memorandum of Understanding generated by the Wang Hall discussions?

We understand that John Purdue was no Ezra Cornell. So we do not expect 10 million dollars over ten years, the amount Cornell will spend on its University-Community Partnership; money beyond its annual contribution of two million dollars to the community.

Yet the University of Minnesota spends $80,000 a year in its University District Alliance for "Engaging Student Citizens". Additionally the university last year purchased three homes for resale to owner occupants.

The University of Arkansas - Little Rock supports a staff person at $88,000 a year for its University District Partnership. It rehabilitated for resale a $97,000 home. It received a $430,000 federal grant to plan the "Central Little Rock Promise" neighborhood.

Notre Dame ? The Northeast Neighborhood Revitalization Organization has received 1.75 million dollars from the University over five years. Notre Dame Asset Management is also involved in Eddy St. Commons and the Notre Dame Avenue Housing Program. This is in addition to their 10 year 5.5 million dollar commitment to the communities of St. Joseph County.

The matching grant of $25,000 offered by the research foundation for the planning of our "University District" is approximately the amount given annually by the Research Foundation to each member of Purdue's senior leadership as a discretionary fund.

3) What will "The Entity" look like?

Our first detailed look at "The Entity" imagined in the initial draft "Memorandum of Understanding" between the Purdue Research Foundation, the City of West Lafayette, and the New Chauncey Neighborhood Association will take place on or about October 31st. The end in mind here is the creation of a land use element within the Unified Zoning Ordinance which will establish land use restrictions, architectural requirements, and development standards to be used for real estate development by an "entity" (a University District Development Corporation) within the research foundation.

4) What of the New Chauncey Land Use Plan ?

The New Chauncey Land Use Plan Steering Committee resurrected by the APC (Area Plan Commission), collected data on rental status and building conditions within the neighborhood, and helpfully assembled several options for future land use in New Chauncey. (These documents appear at right) .The various stakeholders on the land use plan steering committee are in the process of sharing those options with their constituencies. Yet a new stakeholder is emerging; "The Entity".

5) What Role Will Historic Districts Play in this Process?

The creation of a land use element within the Unified Zoning Ordinance which will establish land use restrictions, architectural requirements, and development standards to be used for real estate development, is similar to the work undertaken in a historic preservation district.

6) What will the City of West Lafayette's level of enthusiasm be for this project?

This "University District Development Corporation" was not the city's idea. The city administration was prepared to endorse Wang Hall unconditionally. The Redevelopment Commission was invited to our discussions at my request. I would argue this is as important as a bridge. More important than a car wash.

For its part, the city is considering the expansion of the Levee Tax Increment Financing District to help fund neighborhood improvements within the so-called University District. The Research Foundation has promised that it will not be the one dragging its feet.

7) What is Our Level of Civic Imagination?

Perhaps this is the most important question of them all.

We have been told that the Wang Hall project will help create a preeminent near campus neighborhood. If true, this should mean that our neighborhood would then help make West Lafayette a preeminent university city.

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