Mayor Michael W. Tucker made it clear at a meeting of downtown business owners Monday that David L. Ulrich's South Block plan is going forward and complaints about lost parking spaces in city lots won't get in the way.
"I can tell you, we are going to move this city forward," Tucker declared near the end of a 1-hour, 45-minute meeting in City Hall. "This city's been going nowhere for 30 years. Whoever wants to get on board with us, come along."
The Common Council intends to vote Nov. 17 on a deal with Ulrich to fill in the vacant lot that has been in the center of downtown since the 1970s.
Sitting at Tucker's right was Ulrich, who defended his plan to buy the South Block, a Main Street vacant lot, from the city for $1. Also part of the purchase will be a 211-space municipal parking lot that fronts on Walnut Street.
Ulrich plans to construct six commercial buildings facing Main Street and six more facing Walnut Street, with city parking in between.
The $4 million plan involves the removal of the city farmers' market from the Walnut Street parking lot. Ulrich plans to lease space in another city parking lot at Elm and Walnut streets and construct a building to house what is now a sparsely attended open-air market.
However, Ulrich took heat from Thomas and Kim Milani, whose family owns a submarine sandwich shop and plans to open a restaurant in vacant space it owns between Elm and Walnut streets. Thomas Milani said he won't open the new shop unless he's guaranteed customers can park in that lot.
Ulrich promised Milani that there will be "open parking." Kim Milani said she was reassured but wants to see it in writing.
Also objecting was Kelli Alaimo, second-in-command for developer Elmer A. Granchelli. Granchelli attended the meeting but did not speak. He lost title to the South Block in a breach-of-contract lawsuit filed by the city. The $500,000 in damages he paid is now to be given to Ulrich as part of a $950,000 package to help start the project.
Alaimo said, "We have 100,000 square feet of occupied space in that block. . . . We have 165 employees in that block." She said an average of 75 cars of employees and customers of Granchelli tenants park each day in the lot Ulrich is to buy.
Tucker promised that if any parking problems occur, the city will take action to alleviate them.