Paducah City Commission Debates Future Of City Block Project
The Paducah Board of Commissioners is debating the future of a plan to redevelop a portion of the city’s downtown.
Commissioners introduced an ordinance Wednesday to approve a development agreement between the City and Weyland Ventures Development, a Louisville-based design firm, for the project. The proposed development includes a hotel, parking, open space, and mixed-use residential buildings in the 2.88-acre city-owned block bounded by Second Street, Broadway, North Water Street, and Jefferson Street.
WKMS previously reported a preliminary agreement between the City and Weyland Ventures was approved in April 2019. That action allowed the for the “planning, design, and development for a 3-acre mixed use development on the existing municipal parking lot in downtown bounded by Second Street, Broadway, North Water Street, and Jefferson Street,” according to a release from the city.
Other actions taken last year to advance the development include the formation of a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district. Preliminary approval for the district was granted in August 2019, and the City paid $85,185 to the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority for consulting costs associated with the TIF application.
Continued debate concerning the City Block project comes among a changing political landscape in Paducah. Paducah Mayor Brandi Harless, after receiving the fewest votes in the June 23 primary, will leave office in January. Incumbent City Commissioner Richard Abraham and Businessman George Bray are slated to face off in the November election. Abraham’s mayoral candidacy, coupled with the departure of Commissioners Gerald Watkins and Brenda McElroy, means at least three of the four commissioner seats will be held by non-incumbents.
Watkins and Abraham cited the upcoming election, as well as the ongoing financial constraints imposed by the pandemic, as reasons to hold off on large projects until the new Board of Commissioners takes office in January.
"I feel like we need to table this vote to proceed forward at this time on the City Block project,” Watkins said. “This pandemic is only getting worse. We don’t know yet the damage it will do to our economy.”
Watkins moved to table the project until the end of the pandemic. The motion failed with only Watkins and Abraham voting in favor. Mayor Harless hit back at comments from Watkins and Abraham, encouraging development of the downtown property.
“COVID is a very important, very real, public health and economic pandemic for our community. From a business perspective, when you have a developer saying we still want to invest 21 million dollars in your community, I just don’t understand how we would say no to that at a time when we are going to wake up in two years from now, three years from now and need more economic investment in this community than we ever have in the history of our city,” Harless said.
The proposed development agreement divides the project into multiple phases, with each phase focusing on specific tracks of land within the city-owned property. The full plan as presented by Weyland Ventures may be viewed here.
The proposed ordinance to approve the development agreement is slated for a vote August 11.