Andrea Surratt and Pete Zagaroli made the presentations to City Council. Andrea stated that tonight she wanted to be part of a presentation from Pete Zagaroli. A concept for a multi-purpose facility that will house the farmer's market. She went into the components of Union Square and the relocation of the Farmer's market snd talked about the re-energized market.
The farmer's market board approached the city about making the current location a permanent location. They have put together a team to think about another location and possibly improve upon the location. There is a lot of congestion around the parking area. The city called upon Pete Zagaroli who she stated, "has had wonderful ideas about redevelopment, understands Hickory very well, and is an excellent designer." She next showed a GIS layout of Union Square. She explained that this would move the market from the East side of the Square to a more westerly location of the Square.
Pete Zagaroli came to the podium and thanked the city for the opportunity to get involved. He talked about how this was a scenario where the city came to him, instead of him "coming here with some hairbrained idea." The thought in putting this together is creating congregation space. It is meant to be multi-use. We have a traditional downtown with a few contemporary storefronts. This is fabric architecture. It is a flowing structure. It is a little progressive and contemporary. (The Hound: There was a picture provided, but I have a technical glitch with my camera. And the drawing was basically a 2-D drawing that gave no detail about what this structure will look like.)
Alderman Lail asked about the Northern limit of the structure towards the storefronts. Mr. Zagaroli stated that it is the grass area. The stage will be in the area of the old stage and they will potentially use reclaimed lumber to build the stage. It is literally just a deck. He stated that the stage will be a Nautilus look in nature with large sails on top of it. He emphasized this being more of a work of art concept than a building. He talked about Union Square being underutilized and how Asheville just spent $8 million doing the same program downtown.
Alderman Meisner asked about acoustics to which Mr. Zagaroli stated that he hadn't done studies on acoustics, but it would be no different than before. Alderman Guess asked about the durability of the fabric to which Mr. Zagaroli stated that it has about a 10-year range. Alderman Guess asked if it was a canvas. Mr. Zagaroli stated that it is a PVC product and it is white. This is a stretched material and it needs to be very versatile.
You need protection from the sun, yet you need light. With festivals it needs to be neutral (color). Alderman Guess asked about weather durability? Mr. Zagaroli stated that this is a permanent structure. It is engineered to withstand all current wind loads we have here. the footers are 3 feet by 3 feet and 6 feet into the ground. It is smooth taut surface.
Alderman Seaver asked about seating area to which Mr. Zagaroli stated that it would be no higher than the brick there already and no more than a step up. Alder Patton asked about seating in the back. Mr. Zagaroli stated that it will be a bench that run along the back just to definition and give people a place to sit. It allows chairs to be sat up in front of it and for areas to dance. Alderman Seaver asked about the elevation of the stage area. Mr. Zagaroli stated that it would be raised two steps or about 16 inches. He states that this is more than enough for what they are doing there. He stated that this will be very progressive for Hickory.
Mr. Zagaroli stated that this is a new look and needed desperately. For the cost of what this is, it is an incredible value. It serves an immediate need for the farmer's market, Oktoberfest and future craft fairs. Alderman Seaver asked about the sale of the drawing relating to height. Mr. Zagaroli stated that it was to height and at the lowest point it will be 10 feet and at the highest it will be 14 feet. There will be a lot of room under there and it will not feel like a tent.
Alderman Guess stated his desire that Hickory's Logo be a part of the structure. Mr. Zagaroli talked about the desire to not create anything to permanent. He said the area can be enclosed with curtains. That Logos can be put behind the stage. He personally believes that logos should not be part of the structure. Accessory items can be used for branded images. Alderman Lail alluded to the openness of the structure being nice for the visibility of the signs on the buildings. Alder Fox stated that their is an openness right now and there are days when there aren't 5 people on Union Square. She talked about the positive of the farmer's market.
Mr. Zagaroli stated that he is asked the question over and over again how we get people downtown and he answers why? What is it that is going to bring people downtown other than our shops. We have to provide a space, an environment that encourages the congregation of people. This is functional, artistic, and sophisticated. Alder Patton added that it is a real win because the farmer's market and people eating and buying locally. Alder Fox talked about the fact that since we have decided not to put the streets back in place that we have a 1970's Urban Renewal Plaza. Other communities have reverted back the other way. They have come up with a plan to create a memorable space. Communities all over are looking at their cores. She went to Statesville today and she spoke about
the work they are doing on their streetscape.
Alderman Seaver asked if the pricetag includes the additional accessory items and Mr. Zagaroli sated that it would not, but those items can be produced and bought locally and this would be a nominal expense. The company they are working with is out of New Zealand.
Ms. Surratt came back to the podium stating that the timeframne is critical. It will take 14 weeks to finish this project, which will be done by the end of March. They want to be done in time for the Farmer's market can be open in mid April. There are major things that need to happen such as the right brick, buying the poles and setting them correctly. She stated that the cost will be $285,000 with $163,000 for steel, sails, engineering, design, and installation. The rest of the money is for site work, creating a change area,installing wood for the stage and seating area. She continued to advocate for the costs and art effect of this structure on the area. It does require a budget amendment. The Mayor asked if this would limit the ability of the market to expand. Ms. Surratt stated that there would be the ability to still add 5 more booths, 8 to 10 maximum. Alderman Seaver asked if this added more space for parking. She said it does and it doesn't take spaces away that people are vying for on the east and west sides and it doesn't impeded traffic. The Mayor had a public conversation with City manager berry about public initiatives. Manager Berry stated that this is low hanging fruit. The farmer's market has been successful and in relation to some of the other initiatives the price tag is relatively small.
Mr. Pope stated that he wants the record to show that there is a conflict of interest with Sally Fox and Jill Patton as part of the Downtown Development Association Board (Mrs. Patton is actually on the farmer's Market Board), members of that group and also have businesses on that square. The Mayor stated that Mr. Pope was out of order. Mr. Pope responded that he didn't care. "You do what you want to do and I will do what I want to do, which is be heard." The Mayor stated that they are going to ask for people to be heard at the end of the meeting like they always do. Mr. Pope responded, "yeah but then it will be too late." The Mayor once again admonished Mr. Pope that he was out of order. The Mayor stated that they had already made the decision and voted for it. Mr. Pope stated that he would see them in court, because this is not right and he will get an injunction through the courts.
The Hound says that this is just the same ole, same ole... I'm not saying that this is a bad project, if it is supported by the private interests on Union Square, but to think that Hickory Tax revenues should be allotted once again towards the enhancement of Union Square's private economic marketing interests without any mechanisms for payback or accountability is getting more than old. The same ole story the same ole song and dance, my friends.
And Larry is totally in the right. I certainly wish this city wasn't filled to the brim with the feckless cowards that will complain, but won't stand up for what is right and just. How could the City Council vote on this without a Public Notification? Was this not supposed to be a Departmental Report? I have never seen this happen in the 3 1/2 years I have been attending these meetings or read or heard about any such processes ever taking place. Yeah, they would have done what they were going to do, but at least they could follow the standards and practices of the law. They continue to make the rules up on the fly.
Then we once again see the blatant conflicts of interest. Alders Fox and Patton sitting on boards that directly benefit from this project. I don't argue that a farmer's market is a good thing, but no one has explained why it has to be a centerpiece of Union Square economic activity. They talk about cities investing in their core. Union Square is not the core of Downtown. It is just one piece of it. They want to pigeon hole it into being that, but there is nothing that says that it absolutely positively must be. Go to any city in North Carolina and you see communities that don't center their economic activity on what amounts to a two block area, except little one stop light towns.
Then I am befuddled by my logic, because I can't believe the audacity of our local governance and the lack of respect they have for the people of Hickory. They think we are plain out stupid. They go on these little junkets to Burlington, Asheville, and Chattanooga to "study" their downtowns and how we can enhance ours and low and behold they get back and talk to Zagaroli who just happens to have architectural plans drawn up on this very issue... Shazzam, what a coincidence... Well, GOLLLEEE!!! Ain't that amazing.
We see it once again. They have had this planned out for months. I have to admit that their aspiration towards full-fledged fascism is awe inspiring. They pick the winners and losers around here. I have nothing against Zagaroli. He has nothing to do with this conversation. He's probably suffering due to the Real Estate Depression. I understand that local developers, brokers, and constructors are having to hustle to make a buck, but I don't see this making a big difference on Union Square when the same ole people are making the same ole decisions. Alder's Fox, Patton, and Guess are still going to want to tell us who can and can't use the facilities the tax payers are paying for. The parking funds that are supposed to be used to build a parking deck are once again being redirected towards another use. And this is going to limit the growth potential of the farmer's market. We hear about how the Federal government is helping the Too Big Too Fails privatize profits and socialize losses. That is the same thing going on in Hickory.
Too many decisions are being made in closed session and through a telephone call chain of command. You don't have to have a quorum to figure out which way the wind is blowing. Unofficial votes are being tallied behind closed doors and on those phone calls. Staff, under the direction of Mr. Berry, is leading the Council in directions the staff wants to take them. The problem is staff are unelected and not accountable to the public interest. In a good system, the staff would stay out of the political process. They would remain independent, neutral, and objective. I think what we have seen is that some staff are having a tough time not getting personally involved in some of these issues.
Why weren't multiple designer/developers brought into this process? Why wasn't contract bidding brought into this process? Are we sure that this is the best design and are we sure we are getting the best price. This is what I am talking about when I talk about Competition versus Qualified Competition. They are picking winners and losers folks. "You can compete as long as it isn't against me or my friend."
Isn't it ironic that we can't come up with $400,000 (city government estimated cost) that can be amortized over multiple years to build a pool, but we can come up with $285,000 Johnny on the spot to put up these structures and Zagaroli states that the fabric has a lifespan of 10 years. One issue for the poor and one issue for the connected, which one wins? Who wants to bet that a decent pool could have been built for less, but this structure and the ancillary expenses are going to cost much, much more.
No one looks at the big picture. You can hear the compartmentalizers now:
"Why is Larry so upset. They were going to pass this anyway. He's such a trouble maker. They needed to get it done. I don't know why he thinks they should wait two more weeks and then they get behind schedule." -- Even though there was no notice and the public wasn't given a voice. This is a big budget issue. The only voice the public has is the convoluted election structure that takes place every two years and no one respects that. Thus no one respects the general public.
"It is alright if Sally and Jill push this because they are my friends and they have done a lot for people." -- It doesn't matter that the groups associated with downtown are running their interests through a pipeline that most of us don't have access to. These people don't understand what we outsiders are fussing about, because they are in the clique. Just the High School mentality 30 to 40 years later. What we see would be considered conflicts of interest and insider trading in a real business environment. In Hickory, it's Standard Operating Procedure. Wonder why we are having a tough time attracting new business?