Friday, June 15, 2007

Give me Liberty or give me a parking lot

More on plans to replace a 19th century building with a 21st century surface parking lot at 9 Liberty Street in Middletown, an 1853 Greek Revival structure which was formerly the Methodist Misson Chapel.

The current plans call for moving the building at 9 Liberty Street to a lot on the other side of Main Street in the North End, and rehabbing it for residential use. All well and good, except, as I understand the current plans:

1. In it's place, the developer plans to pour asphalt, to accomodate 10 parking spaces, for surface parking which will be adjacent to a sidewalk.

2. The city has or will purchase 9 Liberty, and deed the lot to the developer. BTW, the city was willing to sell the home for a buck, to anyone who was willing to move it, or dismantle it and cart it away (even to a location outside the city). It's an indication of how much our city fathers value Middletown's historic past. Also, the city, with the cooperation of the current owner will be taking 9 Liberty using eminent domain.

3. The developer plans to build a commercial/retail building on the site of the abandoned gas station on the corner of Liberty and Main. A main potential tenant is It's Only Natural grocery store. The city has so far asked for no concessions from the developer. The developer's plan, as presented originally, remains essentially the same, with the exception of some plantings to mask the parking lot. The city could ask the developer to extend the planned new building along Main Street so there will be no parking lot adjacent to the sidewalk on Main Street. The city could ask for exit/entrance drives for the property to be located on Liberty Street which is less heavily traveled by pedestrians. So far, the city boards seem to be accepting of a curb cut for entrance and exit on Main Street, creating a dangerous pedestrian hazard.

4. The lot at 9 Liberty actually wraps around the house at 13 Liberty which was purchased by The Connection, and is now being renovated. This morning they were preparing for asbestos tile removal at 13 Liberty. When the city was asked why it was not "taking" this property, they mumbled something vague about Federal money being tied up in it. It too is on the National Register of Historic Places in the Main St. Historic district. The right of way (driveway) for 13 Liberty is part of the 9 Liberty parcel, according to city property maps.

I would prefer that the house at 9 Liberty be renovated and preserved at it's current location.

I am not completely against moving it for use on another lot in the North End.

I am not against commercial and retail development on the North end of Main Street. In fact I support it.

I am however, against moving the house, if the city cannot, and will not ask concessions from the developer to prevent a parking lot placement on Main Street with a dangerous curb cut.

The city needs to understand that the developer wants to build on that spot as much as we want him to build there, and that concessions can and should be negotiated. The city is in a position to ask the developer to make some of these important changes which are good for the future of Main Street as a pedestrian-friendly thoroughfare. I'm sure the developer understands the value of the property and would be open to negotiations.

A final note. Minutes of all the public meetings on this topic, along with plans, drawings and schematics for development should be available on line soon after the meetings at which the discussions occur. It's a shame, in this day and age, that this information is not available immediately. A cynic might say that the delay is intentional.

There is still an opportunity for the city to have this important commercial/retail development go forward, and preserve the safety and integrity of Main Street.

Next important meeting: reported Common Council workshop on this developement June 26. Not on the Common Council online calendar yet. Please confirm.

1 comment:

Charlie Krajewski said...

I lived on 9 Liberty Street between 1957 and 1965. Between then, and the 30 years that followed I lived in other sections of town and never knew that it had been anything other than an apartment building! We lived on the 2nd floor facing Main Street. Actually, the two apartments on the west side of the building were 11 Liberty Street, so that two residents in the building were 9 Liberty and two were 11 Liberty. There was also a basement apartment.

Charlie Krajewski
McMurray, PA