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Opinion: Whitman Park: Is an upgrade realistic?

Jim Hoffman
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Free Press Weekly Opinion Columnist

The Downtown Development Association (DDA) has bit off another huge chunk and may prove that their appetite for projects exceeds their abilities and resources.

They now hope to re-develop and revitalize Whitman Park (aka Homeless Park) into a more versatile area, in which there will be benches, playground equipment and the like.

One could hope that they complete other projects (White Elephant Hall comes to mind) before taking on other projects that fit some type of utopian vision as to how downtown should appear. A successful revitalization of Whitman Park would likely require the revitalization of the entire community in its immediate vicinity.



In a very strange twist on the “if you build it they will come” chain of thought, they have determined that if Whitman Park has additional facilities the gentrified elements of our population will gravitate to it and the homeless shall then leave. There is some string of logic there that eludes me. It is pointed out that Whitman Park is not used due to an absence of shelters, benches and the like, and if we improve the facility the homeless that have long inhabited it shall then abandon it so that it will once again become a family friendly environment.

I, as probably are you, am embarrassed by the gateways into our city, inclusive of the Whitman Park area. It would be very desirable to rid the entrances into our community of unsightly buildings and the like, but there has been little evidence the city or county leadership shares that concern. Improvements to Whitman Park are not an answer or even a partial answer to this concern. Redevelopment of Whitman Park in isolation would have no impact on the park usage or to the significant decay in the area immediately surrounding the park. You cannot redevelop one square block and leave many surrounding square blocks in decay and disrepair.



Returning now to other projects on the DDA plate, we have White Hall. When last we heard, the DDA was working with some consultants regarding the feasibility of converting the remaining structure of the White Hall complex into affordable housing. It seems they and other quasi-governmental organizations and charities are hell bent on pushing private investors into bankruptcy.

We specifically speak of the Housing Authority, which continues to pour tax dollars into affordable housing in direct competition with private industry. We speak of the city, which waives or pays development fees for wealthy developers building apartments. That, in turn, creates a situation where the city uses tax dollars to subsidize business which may directly and negatively impact the very tax payers from whom the money was derived. In a county where the threat of socialism is loudly proclaimed, we see little evidence of actual concern for the creeping socialism of tax paid and/or tax subsidized development that becomes government sanctioned industry at the expense of small investors.

While on the subject of affordable housing, concern has also been raised by some in the community about a proposed housing development on Orchard Mesa. There are residents living on Orchard Mesa concerned that the proposed development spearheaded by an out-of-area developer will not be the economic boon promised. They contend that any profits created will be sent out-of-town and have negligible impact locally. Additionally, they point out that there is already significant low-income developments within the immediate area, and that Orchard Mesa needs a better diversity of housing and commercial development. The housing project in question is proposed for a commercially zoned area, which is envisioned as the nexus of commercial growth, not high density housing.

AIRPORT BOARD MAY HAVE CLUE

In a recent meeting, the Airport Authority suspended Rex Tippetts, the airport manager, pending an outcome of the federal investigation into financial fraud at Grand Junction Regional Airport. Questions some board members raised at that meeting indicate they may have an inkling of an idea as to the target of the investigation. Some of the questions and the lack of available response thereto may reflect poorly on oversight and involvement of the Authority.

GJ Free Press columnist Jim Hoffman is a local Realtor and investor who, when not working, loves skiing, camping and fishing (in season). He may be reached at freepressjim@gmail.com.


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