Future of planned gathering space is cloudy

At a Minot City Council meeting this week, an alderman asserted something that resounded with truth and sincerity.

“This issue is among the most significant facing this community,” council member Josh Wolsky said, Monday night. “Our ability to execute and deliver is going to reflect long into the future and have considerable trust implications.”

Wolsky was addressing ongoing challenges in the planned development of a downtown gathering space, following a comprehensive presentation by owners of properties within the planned downtown gathering place proposing to scale back the size or reconfigure the project to keep it alive. Those property owners aired concerns over the city’s property negotiation process, among other things, as well as made suggestions for configuration, preservation of some structures and other issues which they feel would be more palatable and practical.

The clock is ticking. The council set a Aug. 30 deadline to conclude property purchase negotiations and it faces a September 2022 deadline to use the $6 million in National Disaster Resilience Program funds from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development allocated for the gathering space.

Both deadlines loom. Given the differences between property owners and the City of Minot, property acquisition for the existing plan seems a tough obstacle.

As far as the 2022 deadline, John Zakian, the city’s resilience officer, might have said it best at the city council meeting. He asserted that taking up those options would set the project back about 18 months and make meeting the HUD deadline difficult.

“We will have to go back to ground zero and start over,” he said. Zakian pointed out that there are two other options for sites downtown.

Therein rests the problem – timing.

There are no villains here. Both property owners and the city council assert support for the gathering space. Whatever the disconnect has been, though, is problematic and creates a dark cloud over the whole project.

Wolsky’s assertion about “trust implications” is entirely accurate. Some in the community have been greatly skeptical about the gathering space and its chances for success. As expressed often by Minot Daily News readers, that skepticism is based on perceived mistakes by city government, with the downtown parking ramps being the most frequently cited example.

This issue has both trust and public confidence ramifications.

Unfortunately, as of now, that dark cloud is becoming more visible.

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