Without further ado, your Idiotville feel-good story of the week:
This was not a good week, overall. I’ve felt different, distant, foggy all week. My mind isn’t clear and every time I close my eyes I see that knee on the neck of George Floyd and I think about how much longer we’ll need to fight the same battles to gain ground, inch by painful inch, toward the promised land so inspiringly described by Martin Luther King, Jr. Sometimes, it feels like we’re going backwards.
It’s Friday though, dammit, so it’s time to get up off the mat and focus on some good news for a change. This week, the good news is that our downtown extreme makeover continues apace, with the Erie Downtown Development Corp. dropping a cool $1 million on that dumpy parking lot on West 5th Street next to where the McDonald’s used to be.
Why is that good news? Hear me out, because I can understand why an already parking-starved downtown can’t afford to lose another lot. It is a good thing because in the place of that dumpy, 84-space lot and the dumpy lots surrounding it, which EDDC already owns, there will be a brand new, 60,000 square foot multi-use building – and a parking ramp with 350-400 spaces!
Who knows where the EDDC gets all this money, but the thought of turning a McDonald’s and some old parking meters into something befitting an American downtown is enough to make me hope 2020 is more of a speed bump on the way to progress than a trapdoor to fiery hell. After this week, I’ll be happy with anything but fiery hell.
“But Ted,” you’ll say, “don’t we already have enough ugly parking garages littering our downtown? Can’t we complain about both our lack of parking and the utter lack of architectural beauty in our existing garages?”
No. People whom simultaneously complain about a lack of parking and oppose additional parking are the very people that made “Idiotville” such an obvious choice for our label.
Besides, the EDDC has you covered. This parking garage will be mostly hidden from view, tucked between the building’s East and west wings. So it won’t be just another big, boring, concrete monstrosity.
Now, let’s talk money, because I know there are legitimate concerns over whether the tax breaks available to new development actually decreases Erie’s tax base despite increasing property values. Will that happen here? Well, yes, and then no.
EDDC will get the initial ten year LERTA tax break, so that will hurt initially to the tune of approximately $130,000 in lost taxes. The EDDC estimates annual taxes on the new development to be roughly $600,000, though! So what was lost for ten years should be fully made up in year 11. After that, Erie will be raking it in.
If and when this building takes off, let’s all hope that it finds a more just and inclusive Erie living, working, and parking inside its walls. Because while a downtown full of shiny real estate would be good, filling those spaces with equal opportunity for all would be the best thing I can imagine. Let’s get there.