The Salt Lake Redevelopment Agency must do some soul searching and begin a process leading toward reformation of the agency, embattled by several recent controversies, some said at a recent R/UDAT hearing.
"I see an enormous amount of dissatisfaction over progress in the downtown," developer Michael Martin said, pointing to boarded-up storefronts on downtown's anemic Block 57, a main subject of RDA development efforts.Martin and others spoke at the Regional/Urban Design Assistance Team Community Forum. R/UDAT is a group of urban planners.
Recently, the RDA has been criticized for its handling of groundwork for the new Jazz arena. The board is also conducting an investigation of itself to uncover the source of a rumor that members promised a local bank a bonding deal.
And Salt Lake Mayor Palmer DePaulis - who has no voting power on the board, made up of City Council members - has proposed restructuring the agency to give the mayor more power, possibly including veto privileges.
Architects, developers and others at the forum told RDA Chairwoman Florence Bittner and Executive Director Michael Chitwood the agency must evaluate its progress in redeveloping an ailing downtown and consider modifications.
"Somehow, we need to start the process to get more people involved," said Jess Agraz, businessman and former Salt Lake city commissioner.
Agraz proposed that professionals with "a downtown interest," such as developers and architects, should serve as the agency's board of directors, instead of the City Council as the board is now structured.
"It's really not much different from what we have on the Airport Authority Board," he said. That board is appointed by the mayor.
But Bittner objected, saying the public would not have access to such a board. "We must be ready to answer to the voter . . . I think that's the strength of our government," she said.
Martin proposed the agency form a separate advisory board to make recommendations. Such a board could help the RDA decide what proj-ects to support instead of randomly funding development projects, he said.
Block 57 - bordered by State and Main streets and Second and Third South streets - is the subject of an intensive RDA redevelopment effort now in a master plan phase.
But the RDA has offered millions of dollars to other non-Block 57 endeavors, instead of funneling the money toward Block 57, Martin said.
Chitwood said redevelopment there could be completed by the end of the year. *****
RDA reform proposals:
Proposals for reforming Salt Lake City's Redevelopment Agency:
-Remove the City Council as the RDA board of directors and replace them with downtown professionals.
-Form an RDA advisory board.
-Convene a task force to review the RDA.
-Hire a marketing director to attract developers to RDA target areas.
-Give the city's mayor power over RDA decisions.