Should the Kings Highway plaza be permanent?

1601266_10152090063843201_4527285059817520837_nBetter Block originator Jason Roberts wants to make his idea for a public plaza on Kings Highway between Tyler and Davis to become a permanent reality.

He wants it so badly that he staged a temporary version of the plaza as the centerpiece of an enormous Better Block there on his own 40th birthday Sunday. He followed up with a petition to City Councilman Scott Griggs and a blog post calling for this public space.

Two years ago, it looked like funding would be available from Tax Increment Financing to make the project, estimated around $440,000, happen.

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Since then, focus has shifted to using that TIF money for improving sidewalks on West Davis and turning Tyler and Polk into two-way streets.

City Councilman Scott Griggs is expected to make an announcement regarding the two-way streets plan, which includes roundabouts at Davis and Tyler, in his newsletter today.

City Council never approved funding for the plaza.

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“We don’t have the money, and we have to make some decisions,” Griggs says.

The Tyler/Polk two-way plan will make the district more user friendly for car and pedestrian traffic, he says.

It won’t be a project that just benefits Davis,” Griggs says. “The two-way benefits Jefferson also, and it’s important to push south with our projects.”

Bursting Roberts’ balloon further, property owners in the area want the city to abandon that strip of Kings Highway and allow it to become private property that could be developed.

Triangular lots, such as the one that houses the law firm of Chad West, make the district awkward for developers, says Dave Spence of Good Space.

“I’m a fan of commerce occupying that space … rather than a public space,” he says. With the Tyler/Polk two-way plan, there will be “plenty of places for people to gather.”

But Roberts worries that those places won’t be public enough. The district is home to plenty approachable businesses now, but once real estate values go up, their potential uses as fine-dining restaurants and high-end boutiques could price neighbors out, he says.

“If the area appreciates to where no one can afford it, at least this is there as a public space,” Roberts says of the plaza idea.

What do you think, neighbors?

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