Planners see progress on transforming the city’s North Side
By Jason Cato
Thursday, January 14, 2010
A row of boarded-up buildings with faded rainbow facades in the heart of the North Side is expected to be unrecognizable as soon as this time next year.
“People aren’t going to know where they are,” said Kirk Burkley, president of North Side Tomorrow, a joint venture of the Central Northside Neighborhood Council and the Northside Leadership Conference that is heading the Federal Street-North Avenue redevelopment project.
“Any type of improvement to get rid of some of the blight would be nice,” Johnson said. “Unfortunately, some people need to see something nice to think it is.”
Proposals soon will be solicited for the remaining buildings on the block, including the old Garden Theater, Bradberry Theater and the Masonic Hall, Burkley said.
Burkley has met with at least three developers and was scheduled to meet with another earlier this week.
“I am very confident by the end of this year we will at least know who is doing what and have a developer for every building,” said Burkley, 32, a Downtown lawyer who lives in the Mexican War Streets.
As for what eventually will occupy the revamped buildings, that remains to be seen.
“We are open to anything,” Burkley said. “Our preference would be for uses that fit within our community plans.”
The wish list includes a residential-retail mix, with shops and restaurants on the first floor and apartments and condominiums above, and reusing the Garden Theater.
Hope remains that the Garden can be redeveloped into a movie house, brew-pub complex similar to the historic Bagdad Theater & Pub in Portland, Ore., although Burkley admitted that might be a stretch. The Penn Brewery considered the property before renewing its lease at the North Side property it has called home since 1986, Burkley said.