The city-run Capital Improvement Board wants an 18-month zoning extension to keep gravel parking lots on the former Market Square Arena site. The nearly 5-acre site at Market and Alabama streets has been operated by the CIB as gravel lots since 2004. Zoning rules normally require Downtown parking lots to be paved. A zoning board will consider the extension request today. Planners recommend approval, saying the city still is looking for private developers to build on the site and "paving could be viewed as an inappropriate taxpayer expense."
Instead of putting up the land for sale at an auction, the City has hung on to it for years in order to partner with private developers for a future use of the site. Former Mayor Peterson tried desparately to make a deal happen for a private developer that included his former deputy mayor, William Shrewsberry. That deal fell through when lenders wisely pulled the plug on the deal. Has anyone thought of letting the private sector drive development of land within the downtown area for a change? Put the land up for sale at an auction and see what the market bears. Note that private land owners are never allowed to have a gravel parking lot anywhere near the downtown area as the CIB has been permitted to do with this site for years.