Ingenuity, boldness will enable leaders to assemble pieces of the puzzleThe Safeway block is critical to the rebirth of downtown Astoria. That is why Gov. John Kitzhaber took a personal interest in ensuring Astoria would have the financial means to purchase the block when Safeway moved its store to the waterfront. It's also why Gov. Ted Kulongoski has continued the state's keen interest. And it's why a healthy number of Astorians have turned out for several public discussions about the block's future.
The Astoria City Council is deliberating how to follow through on its declaration to state officials that the Safeway block would become a public plaza. There is a lot at stake in this decision. If the block is truly a public plaza, the state's $750,000 will be an outright grant to Astoria. If not, the money will become a loan that the city must repay it over five years at 1-percent interest.
As reported in Tuesday's edition, the critical element is whether the Safeway block becomes a parking lot. State officials have said that a parking lot does not qualify as a public plaza.
It would also be a letdown to the imagination and boldness that Astorians have expressed if the entire Safeway block were turned into a parking lot.
Over the past 15 years, leverage has been the key to development and community rebirth. Cleanup of the Astoria Plywood Co-op site led to an attractive development. Removal of the county fairgrounds led to a site that includes the OSU Seafood Laboratory, the Duncan Law Seafood Consumer Center, the Astoria Aquatic Center and the Coming Attractions movie theaters.
Leverage can bring development to the Safeway block. The pieces to that puzzle, as well as to facing the need for more parking, are there. With ingenuity and boldness, city leaders and planners can assemble a package, just as their predecessors did a decade ago.