As alluring as a $40 million gift for our riverfront may be, if a substantial amount of private sector investment does not occur as a complement to the ambitious Riverfront Master Plan, or if incompatible private investments occur that impede the ability to appropriately develop the riverfront, the project will fall tragically short of its potential.
What kind of private investment will best complement this astonishing public (taxpayer) investment? What has the best chance of success? What vision and strategy should our community embrace?
We examine several options.
Key properties along Veteran’s Boulevard and Smothers Park benefit from river views and close proximity to a parking garage.
Bringing Dollars Home
The recent announcement that Kentucky’s U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell tacked an additional $40 million onto a federal highway bill for Owensboro’s Riverfront Master Plan is a pivotal event in the history of our community. Seldom have officials been able to bring home to Owensboro-Daviess County our proportionate share of state or federal tax dollars – whether for roads, higher education, or community amenities. Notwithstanding questions of misplaced priorities or our unintentional contribution to the federal deficit, this is a time to be appreciative and to focus on how we can maximize the impact of the grant.
A Transforming Development
The riverfront master plan will transform our Ohio River waterfront, add vitality and distinction to the “picture window” of our community. With a dramatic expansion of park space, overlooks, fountains, and more, the new riverfront will be characterized by delightful “people places” for all to enjoy. It will visually and functionally link the handsome treatments of the BB&T Plaza at RiverPark Center with the McConnell Plaza contiguous to the Executive Inn. It will provide the pedestrian connector to English Park that was such a popular recommendation of citizens who participated in numerous workshops and hearings on the downtown plan.
Appropriate Private Investments Are Essential
As alluring as all this may be, if a substantial amount of private sector investment does not occur as a complement to the public improvements, or if incompatible private investments occur that impede the ability to appropriately develop the riverfront, the project will fall tragically short of its potential.
Assessing Our Options
So what will work along the riverfront – particularly in the area between RiverPark Center and the Executive Inn? What thematic development options are most promising? What will the market support or what has the greatest potential to create its own market? What are the obstacles toward development? And through it all, how do we ensure that the public interest be served?
Can (or should) any of the $40 million be set aside to facilitate the most appropriate kind of private investment to complement the public improvements?
How should our community go about reaching a united direction on the development strategy for our riverfront? How do we ensure public oversight and citizen participation throughout the process?
Should an independent consulting firm be retained to assess the potential of these and other options, including a costbenefit analysis of each?
How can the necessary property be acquired to develop the area appropriately?