Monday, February 4, 2013

City Councillor George Anderson Asked for Thoughts re Nanaimo's Participation in the Construction of a 5m Seat Multiplex Arena:

San Francisco Giants AT&T Stadium
George, 3 thoughts on the building of a multiplex arena in Nanaimo.
1. It would be broadly popular I imagine but I think you've shown on other issues that popularity on its own doesn't necessarily translate into good public policy. Any decision should be based on substantial supportive data. A multiplex may in fact have a positive economic impact on Nanaimo but a truly independent objective appraisal should be sought. At this point neither commercial proponents nor financiers have indicated that on its own there's a strong business case for a multiplex. That doesn't mean there isn't a valid role for the City to play. I assume —and hope —that a multiplex 100% constructed and run by the City is a non-starter politically and economically. Which leaves partnering with for-profit business interests and brings me to -
2. The business end of pro sports. These folks can be expected to be tough negotiators, to see the business world as a kind of poker game. They're not averse to playing one city off against another to their own best advantage. I'd want to be confident that where I and my fellow tax payers go up against them at the negotiating table, my representatives are every bit as tough and savvy, prepared to call a bluff and if need be walk away. I wish I saw more evidence of that when shopping mall and residential developers apply for zoning variance and building permits here in Nanaimo. In my view, the City's role should be limited to leasing a property to the operator with full security held as any bank would. A percentage of the revenues generated should be held in reserve to cover considerable costs incurred at the end of the building's life span when ownership would revert to the City.
And 3. This one I consider the most important of all and worry that it won't get the high priority attention it deserves. When a new building is built or an area renewed there's the opportunity — responsibility in fact — to make a contribution to building community, to enhancing our neighbourhoods. Arenas and stadia surrounded by hundreds of surface parking stalls are notoriously destructive to a sense of community, of "place".  Here's a rare example of a major league baseball stadium that contributed to the enhancement and development of its immediate neighbourhood (the San Francisco waterfront after an earthquake collapsed the elevated expressway) including greatly increased property values. The Embarcadero went from an area of derelict warehouses to a prosperous desirable neighbourhood. Hint: don't come by car. Transit options are plentiful and high quality and there's much else to see and do in the area, best experienced on foot. I'd suggest that an ambitious upgrade to our transit system (Bus Rapid Transit dedicated bus lines north and south on Nichol/Terminal and along Bowen/Comox supported by smaller buses feeding into neighbourhoods and key spots like the BC Ferry Terminal at Departure Bay) should be a deal breaker. 

1 comment:

Frank Murphy said...

FB comment Feb 6: George, you may already be aware of Canadian Planner and Architect Ken Greenberg. I recommend (as does your Planning Director Andrew Tucker) his book Walking Home. A colleague and friend of Jane Jacobs, this is his look back on a career of bringing innovative approaches to rejuvenating neglected city sites many of them similar to our Wellcox railyards.