Should the City donate Q-block property for the train depot? Should the Planning Commission or EDA get involved?

Save the Northfield DepotLast night, the Northfield  City Council discussed whether it should give/lease Q-block property for the relocation of the Northfield train depot.

Are Quarterback Club owner Dale Finger’s objections valid?

What about Council members’ rationale for including or not including the Planning Commission and the EDA in the planning process?

Nfld News: Council: More research needed on plan to move depot

“Is it a viable business plan?” Mayor Mary Rossing asked rhetorically. “To me we’re going to have to make the case this is a good economic value to the citizens of Northfield.” Her suggestion to send the proposal to the Planning Commission and Economic Development Authority for their input got mixed reviews. Councilor Suzie Nakasian supported the idea, but Councilors Patrick Ganey, Betsey Buckheit and Rhonda Pownell found the move unnecessary…

Dale Finger, who not only owns the Quarterback Club, but a majority of land on the block under consideration, opposes the move. “I believe if the depot was to move there, any future development would have to be focused around the depot, limiting what could happen on my property,” he wrote in an April 5 e-mail to the council. “I also see this property being a gateway to downtown and someday hope a retail development will bring more traffic to the central business district.”

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5 thoughts on “Should the City donate Q-block property for the train depot? Should the Planning Commission or EDA get involved?”

  1. It is hard to value this type of project without having a rubric telling us what is important and its comparative worth to other uses of government money or property.

    Mayor Rossing is right to question whether the depot represents a viable business plan. Perhaps the better question is, “Why should the City donate the Q block …?”.

  2. David, I agree, which is why it’s puzzling to me why some Councilors don’t support the involvement of the Planning Commission and the EDA. I like the idea of saving the train depot but if public property is going to be involved, I don’t see how we can hand over the property to a private group without a public process, as Mayor Rossing said.

  3. Griff,

    A public process might help, but it might actually make it worse – as has happened with the Streetscape Committee.

    Because it did not have a decision-making rubric, the Streetscape Committee has approved projects like the bike trail, and “post office” parking lot improvements without regard to the economics (especially the lost opportunity costs). Unfortunately, the Streetscape’s approval also gave the false impression that the expenditures had been examined by a public body.

    I would like to see the “public process” include an economic impact assessment so that when projects like the train depot come up the City can know the real dollar costs and returns.

  4. Councilor Betsey Buckheit has a new blog post that touches on the train depot:

    Highest and best use

    The same question should be asked of the proposed Depot location on the Q-Block. The Crossings project was supposed to redevelop the old Kump lumber yard site, but economics short-circuited it. The Q-Block has been talked about as a redevelopment opportunity for decades, but nothing has jump started that process.

    Would placing the Depot (which would be privately owned on publicly owned land) on the Q-Block be a useful catalyst for redevelopment or a deterrent? What else might the City do with its Q Block property?

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