CB3 Remains Skeptical Over EDC Selection Process for Lowline Site

Posted on: January 14th, 2016 at 5:18 am by
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It’s clear that Community Board 3 is not too keen on the Lowline anymore. One need only observe the current process to procure design ideas via an official “Request for Expression of Interest” by the Economic Development Corporation for the 60,000 square-foot abandoned trolley terminal. Despite previous endorsements, the advisory body does not like the lack of time for entrants other than the Lowline, nor being left on the sidelines without a say. This much was made apparent in December.

And again last night. The EDC returned to provide updates – namely that the submission deadline was extended to February 1 and that there is an open site visit tomorrow – and to reassure locals that they want to activate the site with a project that will “enhance the connection to the community.” But EDC PR guru Lusheena Warner was skewered anew. The committee remained cautious of the overall process, and seemed particularly offended that they were nonchalantly asked to give on-the-spot ideas for the space, and that EDC wasn’t working hand-in-glove like other local projects (e.g. SPURA/Essex Crossing).

The primary concern was that the city could immediately advance from the RFEI stage without proceeding with the formal RFP selection process that would allow CB3 input. That stoked other fears about city-owned land being exploited for private gain. What happened with Basketball City was the example floated as cautionary tale.

On a related note, member Enrique Cruz expressed further fears about the potential for “commercial” entities sub-leasing chunks of the space that is not of or for the community. For example, chain stores linked to create an underground “shopping mall.” Cruz hopes that local businesses will have first crack at any such openings.

As for timeline, the only scheduled milestone is the February 1 submission deadline. It’s all up in the air after that. EDC will then review the ideas collected, return to CB3 (probably springtime) to discuss these potential projects, and eventually make a decision.

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The panel spent an eternity deliberating on whether and how to craft the resolution. In the end, a motion was made, and voted on for the following:

  • The committee wasn’t ready to provide a list of feasible community priorities for the trolley terminal last night.
  • That EDC return to CB3 in order to discuss specifics of submissions.
  • That CB3 work with EDC to begin a community engagement process (visioning sessions, workshops) to brainstorm alternative uses that can help inform the eventual selection process.

In addition, Chair Gigi Li will send some sort of letter to EDC to further memorialize the position.

So, yes. Lots of protocol. This is all probably a moot discussion, anyway. The Lowline is furlongs (i.e. four years) ahead of any competitive submissions. In fact, this whole ordeal is happening precisely to make it easier for their approval. You watch…

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