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Your City - Your Business: Supportive housing location raises concern

As the Greater Downtown Council maintains its role of promoting and developing the downtown, obviously, there are points in time where, as an organization, we must voice our concern. This is such a time.

As the Greater Downtown Council maintains its role of promoting and developing the downtown, obviously, there are points in time where, as an organization, we must voice our concern. This is such a time.
A proposal has been introduced to convert the Gardner Hotel at 12 North Lake Avenue into supportive housing for chronic alcoholics. Center City Housing currently owns the building, operating affordable housing for low-income individuals. Under the concept, Center City would be in partnership on this project with the Center for Alcohol and Drug Treatment, Human Development Center and Churches United in Ministry. While our organization applauds such an effort, we have strong concerns about the proposed location.
As members of the business community, we do not wear blinders. We are aware that there is a need for such supportive housing in our market. Chronic alcoholism is a disease; many individuals are turned away from housing programs that require strict sobriety, so their paths often lead them into trying to survive on the streets. Providing such housing would fill a void; it would offer the helping hand that has been out of reach.
Having stated that, however, I must say that our organization cannot support such an endeavor near one of the gateways to our downtown. Business owners and managers are working together with the city to try to enhance and revitalize our central business district. To create a domiciliary at the back door to our multi-million dollar Technology Center flies in the face of development and sends the wrong message about commerce in our community. Whether you approve or disapprove of the Technology Center, there is no question that it is a major investment in our downtown that has spurred other renovation efforts.
Owners of buildings on the corner of First Street and Lake Avenue have shown their commitment to the downtown by reinvesting and improving their property. Another proposed renovation is underway at the corner of Superior Street and Lake Avenue, not to mention other storefront improvements throughout the Old Downtown. With the wheels in motion to further enhance the area, it is important to look closely at such a supportive housing project and locate it correctly.
As a community, we must work together to improve the quality of life for all, but it is feared that creating this type of supportive housing in such a prime location would drain on the ability to retain businesses in the surrounding area and quickly diminish the opportunity for future business recruitment or expansion.
We know this concept has worked in other communities, but the location has been a key factor. Therefore, we strongly support a search for alternative locations and offer any assistance that we may be able to provide to the partners.
Kristi Stokes is the president of the Greater Downtown Council.

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