Saturday, August 13, 2022

Remember the large TV screen proposed by Colonial Williamsburg? Here’s why it may be a no-go

The screen was set up in the P3 parking lot in Merchants Square Thursday to demonstrate what guests may see if Colonial Williamsburg's plans come to fruition. (WYDaily/ Andrew Harris)
The screen was set up in the P3 parking lot in Merchants Square to demonstrate what guests may see if Colonial Williamsburg’s plans were approved. (WYDaily/ Andrew Harris)

A proposal for a giant television screen and green space in the P3 parking lot in Colonial Williamsburg is no longer on the table.

On Friday, the city announced the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation withdrew an application to create a pedestrian plaza in a parking lot adjacent to Merchants Square.

The foundation said public concern about parking and the idea of a large video screen in the plaza prompted them to withdraw the application.

The project entailed removing 40 parking spots and adding grass, seating and a water feature to the block bounded by Duke of Gloucester, North Boundary, Prince George and North Henry streets.

The green space and “festival marketplace” would have offered a gathering place and outdoor seating for nearby restaurants and other businesses, according to a news release from the city.

“We decided to step back for a while to see how the city’s parking plan implementation goes before we explore again the feasibility of the pedestrian plaza,” said Jeff Duncan, vice president of real estate for Colonial Williamsburg. “While we remain excited about the concept of the public plaza as an attractive gathering place, we support the city’s efforts to make parking easier downtown, thereby providing a better experience for all who visit.”

Information from the city’s recent downtown parking study shows the P3 parking lot is a high-demand lot because it is close to Merchants Square.

The parking study also shows there are enough parking spaces in the downtown area, although the city hired additional parking enforcement officers to help “educate” visitors and residents about the availability of parking in the area.

The city Planning Commission reviewed the plaza plan in November, and City Council was scheduled to review it at their meeting Dec. 12.

During the planning meeting last month, the commission supported the plaza project as a whole, but took issue with the video wall.

The Planning Commission voted 5-1 in favor of Colonial Williamsburg’s requests, but modified staff’s recommendations – instead recommending a temporary screen to be erected up to 25 times each year.

“The plaza concept fits into the city’s Downtown Vibrancy Plan, but the loss of centrally located parking was a concern,” Vice Mayor Doug Pons said. “We appreciate the extra time to see how our parking plan implementation is working.”

If Colonial Williamsburg chooses to pursue the project again, they will need to refile the proposal and start the approval process from the beginning, according to the news release.

Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing is the Assistant Editor at WYDaily. Sarah was born in the state of Maine, grew up along the coast, and attended college at the University of Maine at Orono. Sarah left Maine in October 2015 when she was offered a job at a newspaper in West Point, Va. Courts, crime, public safety and civil rights are among Sarah’s favorite topics to cover. She currently covers those topics in Williamsburg, James City County and York County. Sarah has been recognized by other news organizations, state agencies and civic groups for her coverage of a failing fire-rescue system, an aging agriculture industry and lack of oversight in horse rescue groups. In her free time, Sarah enjoys lazing around with her two cats, Salazar and Ruth, drinking copious amounts of coffee and driving places in her white truck.

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