If you’re paying attention to this blog, you’ll know that yesterday wrote an article about the best way to spend government revitalization dollars. Many projects are pitched as revitalization but if they don’t have even the punch of my little hypothetical test project then they shouldn’t be called revitalization.
To be honest, I hurried up to get this test written in advance of a review of of Capital Park Master Plan.
Happily the Capital Park plan does not claim to be revitalization but instead is just a very nice state park.
Having not yet read the Master Plan, I expected to read all sorts of claims about how the park was key to Trenton’s economic development. As it turns out, the opposite is true.
There are next to no claims about revitalization.
This is a good thing. Instead the stated goals are:
- Reinforce the Capital Core
- Reclaim the Riverfront
- Release the Assunpink
- Reconnect Trenton
These goals are pretty innocuous and can pretty much be summed up as follows, “Build a pretty park, that has some historical aspects, increase the downtown foilage, make life great for walkers and cyclists and don’t mess up traffic too much”.
Sounds lovely. What it doesn’t say is that the Capital Park will create jobs or spawn massive new development. This is OK. Trentonians can use more “lovely”.
If there is a state budget for building new parks just because parks are lovely, then I’m glad we’re getting our fair share.
When will Dad’s wallet run dry?
My only concern is that, as Trentonians, we can only ask for so much. Eventually Dad’s wallet will run dry. Hopefully we’re asking for all the right things.
The state has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on Trenton over the last several years. So far we’ve not actually gotten anything that would lead to revitalization. I wonder if we shouldn’t trade favors and try to get real revitalization money instead.
Some are touting the park as economic development anyway
Though the plan itself does a good job avoiding claims about economic development, I’ve received at least one email from a park Steering Committee member who does make that claim. The park is compared to the San Antonio’s Riverwalk, which is sort of like comparing a Volkswagon to Ferrari. They serve two different purposes. Though I’ve asked many people and read the complete Master Plan, I see no economic impact analysis.
It’s sloppy to make such comparisons and should they start appearing in the press I’ll attempt to expose them. Meanwhile, I’m concerned that the legislators who approve funding won’t be so discriminating in their evaluation of the project. They’ll be handed a “plan for a lovely park” and be told its really a revitalization engine. That’s dishonest politics.
The park’s supporters shouldn’t mislead the legislature about what this plan is and isn’t.
There will be economic benefit
To be honest, after reading the plan, I was ready to give the park credit for as much as a 5% increase in property values within 1/2 mile. We’ll see if this can happen and I’ll be in a good position to test the benefit as our two Peace St. properties are within 100 yards of the park border. Will I be able to raise rents by $30/month because of the park?
There are some issues with the plan
From my reading of the plan, the three biggest risks seem to be:
- Funding dries up during the process
- The public safety situation gets out of control
- The Parking mitigation efforts don’t work
There is a risk the plans ambitious programming efforts don’t materialize, however, the park can still be an enjoyable spot even without them.
I didn’t participate in the process and wish I had. I would have made sure these risks and their potential impact on operating costs were highlighted. Also, I don’t feel represented by anybody on the steering committee. Most steering group member were state agency representatives. The lone city representative presumeably takes orders from the Mayor and therefore doesn’t represent progressive Trenton policy.
Despite all my fuss, I must say that the plans look good so far.
Wish it was more of a fitness park
Of course the devil is in the details and here’s a detail that didn’t come through in the plan. Most parks today are used to improve fitness, not look at plants or historical artifacts. There didn’t seem to be a focus on fitness level biking or running.
Running and especially cycling for fitness require different infrastructure than their casual cousins. One only needs to observe Route 29 between Stockton and Frenchtown. Bikers stay on the highway and casual riders are on the canal path. Serious riders can’t use the canal path.