Cedar Center - More than just a few new stores
It's really exciting, not just because we'll have neat new restaurants and retail, greenspace and such, but because of what this development will do to make the whole southeast corner of our city a magnet for new residents looking to be part of a revitalized neighborhood and city, and a reason for longtime residents to stay.
We usually think of economic development as only having to do with commercial projects or office space, and the actual CC property will lead with those elements.
But the financial investment and incentives being directed toward green building and sustainable housing and energy projects like the ones we're gearing up to bring to the neighborhoods north and east of CC provide a fantastic opportunity to make updating our housing stock and our neighborhoods a new economic driver.
People want roomier, more convenient homes than what we have in "bungalowville." We can make those houses not only more user-friendly but also greener, more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly, all of which make them more marketable.
So when I say I want to improve our neighborhoods, this is one of the ways I mean to do it – green updates and community gardens and elbow room to spread out a little. I think we could make this area the place to go to see all the new green technologies and materials and designs. And as the work gets done, contractors learn and train workers in green jobs, putting up solar cells and installing geothermal heating/cooling systems and rooftop windcatchers.
The timing couldn't be more perfect, now that CC is gaining speed just as the demand for sustainable housing is starting to take off.
I know, it seems like we've been at this Cedar Center project a while. We have been. Previous Councils and administrations have been, too. There was a lot of groundwork to be done to get us just to this point. It also seems like you can't take one step forward without first passing some seemingly-disconnected legislation that the state or county or federal government requires us to have in place that gives us the legal right to take that step. In other words, a lot of the legislation couldn't be passed until we first passed other legislation – designations, declarations, it's mind-boggling.
And, of course, if you want to use OPM (other people's money) for basic infrastructure improvements, and we do, there are more forms and layers of legislation that have to be on our books before we can go to this funder or that agency for money to pay for things like removing asbestos or cleaning up contaminated soil where a dry cleaner's use to be. Buying the properties, negotiating with dozens of owners, took years. Waiting for tenants to find new space took more. Careful demolition, environmental cleanup and site prep, going on now, takes more. But you can see, it's happening.
The new Cedar Center might not be as grand as our grandest wishes for it were a few years ago, when the market and the economy were robust. And it won't all happen at once, as it might have done back then. Under the current economic circumstances, it will come in phases, first restaurants and retail, and residences will come last. It will give us time to work on the neighborhood revival. Time is on our side.