Colonial Williamsburg’s Goodwin Square project has cleared another hurdle — this time with a recommendation to fund the project using dollars from the city’s Tourism Development Fund.
Funding has not been officially approved — City Council will need to approve the release of the funds, as well as three separate matters involving zoning changes and a special use permit.
The Tourism Development Grant Review Committee met Friday to review applications for grant funding generated by tax dollars from Senate Bill 942, unanimously voting to recommend City Council approve $2 million to turn the P3 parking lot into Goodwin Square.
Colonial Williamsburg’s proposal for Goodwin Square would turn the 40-plus spot parking lot into a green space and pedestrian plaza with a splash pad and outdoor seating. A temporary video wall is also proposed for the plaza.
City Council is slated to hear the Goodwin Square issues — both the funding issue as well as the other three items needed to build the project — next month.
The Tourism Development Grant Review Committee recommended giving $400,000 annually to the project for five years, starting with fiscal year 2020.
“I do think … there’s a lot of value that’s being offered that I hope doesn’t fall on deaf ears,” committee member Andrew Voss said.
The project ranked the highest out of the 10 applications for grant funding on a numerical scoring sheet, Economic Development Director Michele Mixner DeWitt said.
About 10 Williamsburg, James City County and York County residents spoke during the meeting’s public forum, the vast majority of whom voiced distaste for the pedestrian plaza because of the 40-space reduction in parking.
Some speakers suggested the people who shop in the Merchants Square area are often older and better-able to afford goods and services offered by those businesses. Removing nearby parking could prevent those customers — some of whom may have mobility issues — from frequenting those businesses.
“I want Williamsburg to succeed, I want Colonial Williamsburg to succeed — I don’t think this’ll help it,” resident J. Mott Robertson Jr. said.
Other speakers also questioned whether a pedestrian plaza would substantially increase tourism, or whether it would be closely tracked to determine the project’s success. Robertson also questioned whether removing the P3 parking lot contributed to Colonial Williamsburg’s mission to preserve and promote history.
Colonial Williamsburg estimated in its grant application the plaza could attract about 1.5 million people a year.
Goodwin Square also received both positive and negative feedback during a Planning Commission hearing Aug. 13, much of which was similar to feedback at Friday’s meeting.
Conceptual plans for the public plaza include brick- or cobble-paved sidewalks, multiple pedestrian access points, an irrigated lawn, “interactive fountain” similar to a splash pad, outdoor seating, a public restroom building, a temporary video wall and expansion of existing outdoor restaurant seating, according to Planning Commission agenda documents.
Use of the video wall would be limited 75 cumulative days each year for only three days at a time. The wall can not be used for advertising.
Colonial Williamsburg’s winter ice rink could also occupy the space if the plaza is constructed.
Colonial Williamsburg projects
Colonial Williamsburg also submitted applications for Tourism Development Fund grants for several other projects.
Some received a recommendation for funding by the committee, others did not.
Projects that received a recommendation for funding also included $350,000 in fiscal year 2020 to renovate the Henry Street public restrooms for public use.
Colonial Williamsburg did not receive funding to improve Historic Area WiFi, improve Historic Area streetscapes, or improve their parking lots.
“These parking lots are in need of repair and are part of the visitor experience,” the staff recommendation report reads. “TDGRC discussed the effect of CW’s deferred maintenance of these lots and the incorrect, but real, public perception that they are “City” lots, not privately owned.”
City staff were unable to formulate a way to ensure future maintenance was completed in the parking lots without required the foundation to make a pay-for-parking model, City Manager Andrew Trivette said.
“Given the complexity of paid vs. free parking and the need for ongoing revenue for maintenance, staff could not determine a lease or management agreement structure that benefits both parties,” the staff report reads.
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Colonial Williamsburg was not the only entity to submit projects for grant funding, or receive those funds.
Here’s the rundown:
- Concept of a permanent shelter at the DeWitt-Wallace Lawn: No funding recommended, but idea has merit and should be explored in the future.
- Quarterpath Recreation Center Expansion/Indoor Sports Facility: $250,000 in fiscal year 2020 recommended to pay for a study on the project and some funding for project design, as well as get a regional consensus for the project. Will need future consensus regionally for project to come to fruition.
- Boundary Street Plaza: $110,000 recommended to allow the city to buy a portable stage to be used at events around the city. Also includes $10,000 for the Williamsburg Regional Library to finish putting public seating around City Square.
- Kiwanis Park 4th Softball Field: Recommendation for approval of $1.2 million spread over two years to construct a fourth baseball diamond.
- Prince George Street and downtown wayfinding signage: $250,000 recommended for approval for fiscal year 2020.
More information on the staff recommendations and the projects can be found on the city website.