415 West Washington – How should we proceed? – My July 6th, 2020 City Council Speech

Good evening, my name is David Silkworth, I’m a 5th Ward resident and a candidate for City Council. I would like to comment on DS-1, the resolution to create the proposed application materials, and to review and recommend development entitlements for 415 West Washington. I believe it would be a mistake to move forward with this resolution at this time.

I would like to provide several reasons for my position:

The first question our city should ask about any proposed resolution is: “How does it affect the residents who will be most impacted by it, and how do they feel about it?” Well, I’ve listened to many of the surrounding neighbors who are excited to have the site reactivated and brought back into the fabric of their neighborhood, but they are unhappy with the massing currently being proposed. The opinions of the surrounding residents should weigh most heavily in any discussion about what happens on this site because it’s their homes and quality of life that’ll be most affected.

Second, this site isn’t a viable option for affordable housing due to its proximity to the railroad tracks and its location in a floodplain.

Third, the process for pre-entitlement will cost money and staff resources that the city can simply no longer afford due to our current budget shortfalls, pending budget cuts and uncertainty in the real estate market.

Lastly, I recently attended a virtual neighborhood meeting hosted by Joe Lambert, and he has a proposal for redeveloping the site in a manner that respects the history of the building, activates it with small shops, artist spaces, pedestrian traffic and some housing, and also maintains the chimney for the swifts.

His plan offers outstanding public benefits and provides solutions to many of the problems of the site at a scale that is more agreeable to the surrounding community. If his proposal is attainable, it sounds like a win-win for everyone.

As it is today, 415 West Washington is a neighborhood problem, wouldn’t it be nice if we could develop a neighborhood friendly solution? Shouldn’t we at least give the most reasonable solution that provides the most public benefits to the local residents some consideration?

Thank you for your time.