Editorials

Save the taxpayers from fiscal demolition

Gary Karasek’s vision for redeveloping the Meredith Home, including a rooftop park.
Gary Karasek’s vision for redeveloping the Meredith Home, including a rooftop park. Provided

The former Hotel Belleville, known more recently as the Meredith Home, may have a developer in talks with the city. Details are sketchy, but Mayor Mark Eckert said there may be news sometime this month.

The building has been a fixture on the Public Square since 1931. It loomed behind revelers on VE Day in 1945, it has presided over decades of public festivals and it has housed elderly residents, city visitors and nightclub-goers.

The group working to save the building envisions a park on the sixth floor and rooftop green space as well as a gallery linked to Art on the Square, a boutique hotel, maybe apartments, office or retail space.

The dreams are great, but there are fiscal realities here.

Bruce Cook donated $500,000 for the building to be razed so a park in memory of his daughter could be built. Will an indoor or rooftop park be tribute enough, or will the city have to repay Cook?

Also, what incentives will be expected from the city?

The Meredith Home could be an asset if it turns out like the Turner Hall redevelopment. But if it, for example, takes spending $9 million in public funds to wind up with a $5 million building, then city leaders better make sure there will be a convincing, overriding public benefit from whatever the public investment might be.

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