Friday, March 30, 2007

Developer Drops Out of La Marketa; a Blessing in Disguise?

This morning's paper contains a news brief stating that Buckingham Properties has decided to drop out as lead developer for the La Marketa development on North Clinton Avenue, or as it is more popularly known, Avenida Clinton Norte. Despite the City's efforts to knock down buildings and prep the site for development, Buckingham "can't make the numbers work." While some may choose to view this as a bad sign for the project's viability (and it surely is when viewed purely out of free market economics), I choose to look at it as a stroke of good luck for our city and for all small businesses in the area.

Now that Buckingham has abandoned the project, we may be able to preserve the two buildings at 804 and 844 North Clinton that help give the block its vibrant urban feel. As was described a couple of months ago, these two historic multi-story structures (one recently rehabbed, the other holding a long-time Chinese restaurant) were to be demolished to make way for Buckingham's vision of La Marketa. If the City decides to take over as developer of the project, these buildings can be preserved and/or worked into the development. Furthermore, as I pointed out in a previous post, what Buckingham proposed for La Marketa was a bastardization of the original vision for the development. They turned what was supposed to be a traditional Latino marketplace into a pastel strip mall, complete with a large parking lot out front. As we all know, nothing screams Boricua more than a new Payless and a Dominos.

This seemingly unfortunate event may prove to be a God-send IF the City's Economic Development Department does the right thing and returns this project to its original intent. A tiled-roof strip mall does not instill a sense of home for the large and growing population of Cubans, Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, and other Latinos that reside in our City. A large front parking lot does nothing to enhance the La Avenida neighborhood; most folks in that area will walk, bike, or take transit (or should be encouraged to). Lastly, the historic buildings that were "standing in the way" of progress, can now be preserved as a major component of this highly-important neighborhood revitalization project. If the City does not act appropriately, maybe Benderson will step in and provide this community with what it surely needs - a pastel tiled-roof Walgreens.