A majority of those who weighed in on the future of the downtown Liberty Lot parking lot want its predominant use to remain the same—parking.
Economic Development Director Russell Seymour shared the results of a recent public survey and an Oct. 7 public input session with council members Monday evening. The goal of the public outreach was to solicit feedback on potential future development of the town’s Liberty Lot, and what types of uses would or would not be desired there.
Council members have spoken extensively this year about the redevelopment of the pproperty, and it came into greater focus with a proposal by attorney Peter Burnett for a development that includes age-restricted apartments, a parking structure, a conference center, performing arts facility and restaurant on the property. Seymour noted that the town has received three unsolicited expressions of interest on the Liberty lot, although none are considered formal proposals.
“What we have received are ideas and comments, [the proposers] have met with staff,” he said. The details of the other two development ideas for the Liberty lot were not shared during the meeting.
Results from both the survey and public input session, which drew around 50 attendees, indicated that just under 50% of respondents wanted parking be a major component of any development on the lot. A majority of those responses, he noted, came from individuals who are commuting into town and use the Liberty lot for parking. Many of them favored a structured parking facility, he added.
The second preference, at 35% of responses, was for some sort of performing arts or conference center. Suggestions to build a performing arts facility have been raised in previous years but never gained traction. Some suggested the center be coupled with a hotel, while others did not want a lodging component.
Having a use that drew visitors to downtown was a phrase repeated among many respondents, Seymour said.
Among the chief concerns for redevelopment of the property were the impact on traffic and the transportation network; construction noise; and availability of parking for any new development.
Seymour recommended that the council move forward with a formal Request for Proposals process, in which the town may accept proposals for a public-private partnership for the property. Soliciting development proposals would not commit the town to moving forward on any type of changes to the Liberty Lot, Town Attorney Christopher Spera said.
The council was expected to move forward with issuing the RFP on Tuesday night.