Letter from John regarding conversion of Inlet Towers

Last night I attended the monthly South Addition Community Council (SACC) Board meeting to hear a presentation by one of the new owners, Bob Gross, and AHFC CEO Dan Fauske.  They were there to discuss the conversion of Inlet Towers from a commercial hotel to a residential apartment building.  As part of their loan from AHFC  you may recall they must provide some mix of low income (approximately $35,000 annually) and affordable housing units with their market rate apartments.

The meeting was extremely well attended and most residents of South Addiction wanted information on the impacts to the neighborhood.  Issues such as increased traffic, adequate parking, impacts to schools, noise, and security were some of the major concerns.  One issue that could impact Park Place is that AHFC statutes do not currently allow commercial operations in a residential building in which AHFC has a residential loan.  So technically their Bistro Pub, the “full service” restaurant they recently remodeled, could potentially be closed to the public.  I learned that “full service “ restaurant is the technical term for an eating establishment that serves primarily food but also may provide beer, wine and cocktail service - for some reason the simple word “bar” has a negative connotation so I won’t use that ! 

I know many residents at Park Park and the entire neighborhood enjoy having a place to walk for dinner or a cocktail and would hate to loose this amenity we now enjoy.  Also, I know some residents in the neighborhood would prefer to see no establishment that serve alcohol.  Rep. Gara was also at the meeting and agreed to work with AHFC to change the existing State statues to allow the restaurant to continue operating commercially and be open to the public but only if the SACC supported the concept.  I personally would like to work with SACC to see if we can get that support so the State statute could potentially be changed.

I know some of our residents have additional concerns about the concept of mixing lower income housing and perceived potential negative impacts to the neighborhood or property values.  My observation is that throughout the U.S. communities have moved to a new model of mixing families of different incomes together and not segregating lower income individuals into public housing projects that become crime ridden and blighted as in the past.  This new social housing policy produces more diverse and vibrant neighborhoods if managed well.   Bottom line is Inlet Towers has to find a viable business model that works or in time they would have to close and we certainly do not want to live in the shadow of a vacant tower – remember how the MacKay building on the other side of downtown looked for 20 years until a developer found an approach that worked.

I have had several conversations with Bob Gross and with the improvements he has already voluntarily made along our alley I think he will be a good neighbor and manage Inlet Towers well.  He and his wife actually live in Inlet Towers and obviously want it to be a great place.  If they don’t achieve that I’ve already told Bob he can expect us and the neighborhood to fight him as vociferously as we have fought previous owners on issues of noise, garbage, parking, etc. 

Anyway, SACC will be pursuing this issue over the next few months and I anticipate they will probably vote on a formal resolution perhaps as early as their January 17, 2013 meeting.  I would like your thoughts on perhaps moving our next Park Place Board meeting to December 19, 2012 so we can also consider a resolution on this issue.  Bob has offered to let us use the large conference room at Inlet Towers so more of Park Place residents can see the new restaurant renovations and interior improvements they have already made.  I would like our residents to hear his vision for Inlet Tower and also be able to discuss their concerns, issues and questions about how this will operate.

I apologize that this is all very sudden and only learned of the details a few weeks ago when I returned home.   I am also leaving home again this weekend and will not return until December 12.  However, I would like all Park Place residents who are interested in these issues whether in support or opposition to be able to actively participate in the discussion.  If the majority of the Board agrees I will ask Bob to reserve the large Inlet Tower’s conference room for our next Board meeting to be scheduled on December 19.  If most of you do not want to do that I’ll ask Bob to plan to attend our next regular Board meeting on January 16, 2013 and make a presentation to us at that time.

Please let me know your preference or feel free to suggest an alternative approach.

Thanks much.