Continental Inn Postmortem

I’ve been collecting my thoughts following the Council’s unanimous decision to approve the restaurant development project at the old Continental Inn site.

First, a quick update on why I didn’t support the project, nor oppose it during the Council hearing.

Personally, I felt that there were enough people in the neighborhood disappointed with the site plan, as well as the process that led up to it, that I couldn’t come out and support it. Further, I felt that our quick response to oppose the original zoning request, and the City Plan Commission’s unanimous recommendation to deny it, was a strong message that the West Spring Valley redevelopment strategy needs to be followed.

I stand by that and will continue to support and defend the city’s WSV regulations.

That said, the developer made, in my view, a good faith effort to listen to neighborhood feedback from the City Plan Commission meeting, and from myself and others. A great deal of that feedback was incorporated into the revised plan. I couldn’t and can’t condemn them for trying, and seeming eager to continue to make improvements.

So, does it match up with the WSV strategic blueprint? No. But I think it is now in the bleacher seats.

We made a difference

I know there is disappointment from a lot of people. But I think we can hold our heads high that we were able to drive substantial changes to the site plan, thanks mostly to your feedback in the CPC meeting and to posts we made in our Web pages. I also have to thank the developer for being willing to listen.

I don’t think it serves us to mull over the “could of’s” and “should of’s” and “if’s” and “but’s.” This project has a lot of them, and trust me, it’s easy to let those pull you into the weeds.

I agree with Cottonwood Heights NA President Jason Lemons that we do need to have a lessons learned session with the city.

Reversing misconceptions and serving your clients

If you watched the hearing on public access, you’ll recall that most of the speakers and several of the Council members had legitimate questions and concerns about this development.Tow in point,

  • Is it really going to be a catalyst?
  • What happens the next time someone wants to change the strategic blueprint?

I think there is also still quite a bit of misconception about how this project was handled with the neighborhoods.

In my private and professional life I’ve learned that the client or customer is always right, even when they are wrong.

My point is, there is a belief from some that communications was well and good with the neighborhoods on this project. That is simply not the case from our point of view.

When you serve a client, and they tell you over and over that something is wrong – in this case that your communications and process isn’t working – you don’t come back and say, “It is working.”

You always come back and ask your client: “How can we make it better?”

Going forward

  1. I meant what I said at the hearing. We, not just city management and the developer, have a responsibility to continue collaborating and driving toward the best possible outcome for this project. I think all of us want this to be successful.

    So, you get 24 hours to bemoan and complain the Council’s decision, then, as so many of you tell your kids, you have to get back on your feet, dust yourself off, and move on.

    Moving on, in my book, means working together to help make this a great project. 

  2. I believe strongly that a Council member has an opportunity to take a leadership role in our redevelopment strategy. As the Mayor said, most of Richardson’s empty space is built out. Going forward the emphasis is going to be on redevelopment.
  3. I agree with those Council members who said it, that this is the first project of its kind and it was not easy to do, and there are lessons learned. Let’s document those, but not in a vacuum. The lessons learned should include not just neighborhood representatives, but anyone from the community who is interested.
  4. Make public what worked and what didn’t, and what is the plan for correcting the issues.
  5. Set up milestone dates for completing the corrective actions.
  6. We’ll review lessons learned as a neighborhood. I’ll be the first to say that there are processes we can improve. Some of the lessons learned:
    1. Communicate more often.
    2. Try to find alternatives for group input – meeting places are hard to find on short notice. What else could we do?
    3. Stay vigilant when it comes to redevelopment in our area.
    4. Keep our ears to the ground – do not wait for the city or anyone to inform us. Actively seek out information.
    5. Broaden our knowledge about what redevelopment means. In this project, I noticed from people in our neighborhood and we saw it with the Council last night, that not everyone has a clear, definitive idea of what our redevelopment strategy means. Frankly, this was a baptism by fire for me and I had to try to learn fast. I’m still learning. There’s no shame in not knowing everything, which leads to the next lesson learned…
    6. Ask a lot of questions.
    7. Can we do something to better promote our area and help prospective developers know how they can take advantage of our help and collaboration, and streamline approvals?

I’ll close it here. If you have suggestions, I believe you can post them in the comments area under this message. Or email me at president@richardsonheights.org.

Thanks,
Richard

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