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Less than three months after the City of Williamsburg approved the demolition of two hotels it purchased with the hope of further guiding the revitalization of Capitol Landing Road, City Council members reaffirmed their commitment to forming redevelopment strategies at their retreat Saturday.
The council met with the city’s top administrators, City Manager Marvin Collins III and Deputy City Manager Jodi Miller, at the Municipal Building to revisit the policy initiatives that should be pursued to achieve the municipality’s goals for the next year.
The discussion starts the process of amending the city’s current Goals, Initiatives and Outcomes document, which spans fiscal years 2015 and 2016. The GIOs are adopted biennially with revisions made at the halfway point of each cycle.
Redevelopment, from identifying specific areas that should be redeveloped to emphasizing the need to incentivize developers to invest in blighted areas of the city, dominated the portion of the conversation in which council members discussed the two of the eight overall goals – character of the city and economic vitality – listed in the GIOs.
Council members pointed to two recent redevelopment successes as encouragement: the revitalization on Second Street spurred by the private sector, and the sale of the city-owned former Lord Paget Motel property on Capitol Landing Road to Sperryville-based Copper Fox Distillery.
They agreed the remaining “pockets” of Second Street that have not been redeveloped could use upgrading and praised the early stages of transformation – including the old public works building’s transition into a nursery and the demolition of two dilapidated hotels the city now owns – along Capitol Landing Road.
The council also suggested the city look for ways to better connect the Capitol Landing Road corridor to Second Street with contiguous sidewalks and other traffic considerations.
“As Second Street and Capitol Landing continue to develop, it’s a natural next step to them,” Mayor Clyde Haulman said. “We really need to look at how Parkway Drive from Second Street to Capitol Landing can play a much more important role in connecting those two major areas. If in 20 years we have two very vibrant areas going on there, [Parkway Drive] is a natural connector between them.”
Midtown – the largely commercial area near the Lafayette Street, Monticello Avenue and Richmond Road intersection that includes the Arts District and the Williamsburg Shopping Center – has long been identified as an area the city would like to see redeveloped.
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While councilmembers discussed several infrastructure projects, such as revamping the Monticello-Lafayette-Richmond and Bypass-Capitol Landing intersections, that could help both stimulate and prepare for growth in some of the lagging areas, they also considered how a new policy regarding incentives could play a role.
Collins, participating in his first retreat since starting as city manager Aug. 1, suggested city staff could look into creating a redevelopment policy that would not be contingent on whether the state approves the enterprise zone application the city filed jointly with James City County.
Enterprise zones offer incentives for businesses, with both the state and locality – both James City County and the City of Williamsburg, in this case – pitching in to fund the incentives.
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With city officials predicting approval of an enterprise zone is unlikely, councilmembers agreed having a redevelopment incentives plan in place regardless would be prudent.
Though creating an incentives plan will now be on the city staff’s radar, councilmembers want the process to begin with a meeting between the City Council and the Economic Development Authority to help them assess what programs are in place and which incentives proposed in the enterprise zone application the city could enact without the state’s help.
The city would then have to decide the areas in which the incentives would be offered, with the possibility of working in partnership with James City County and York County, if they are interested.
“We don’t want to lose momentum [on Second Street], but it’s moving on its own. I think if we can help with a few things, then great,” Vice Mayor Paul Freiling said. “But Capitol Landing Road needs a push, and Midtown is in a critical point with the shopping center issue. I do think an incentives package for some or all of those areas would be wise.”
The incentives package would be an additional tool for redevelopment, as the city is already committed to actively pursuing “underused and blighted commercial sites,” a tactic they have used with several hotels and motels in the city.
Collins will turn the ideas discussed at Saturday’s retreat into policy initiatives for his staff for the fiscal year, which ends June 30.