Sunday, May 20, 2007

Akron's Courthouse Squabble Goes National

Commenter OhioExile points out that todays New York Times runs a story about the ongoing snipefest between the city and the Feds over Akron's plans to develop the lot next to the downtown's Seiberling Federal Building.

Ooh! Can I say this is promoted from comments? That's so cool!

OK, I'm back. The story is interesting for what it does and doesn't add to the coverage. First off, it offers the best reset of the controversy I've read anywhere:

    The south side of the John F. Seiberling Federal Building in Akron faces a city-owned parking lot. Nearby employers, including FirstEnergy, continue to expand, causing a parking shortage downtown, said Dave Lieberth, Akron’s deputy mayor.

    City officials originally hoped to replace the lot with a 300-car parking garage. The proposal more than tripled in size, to 1,000 cars, after Signet Enterprises, a real estate development company, decided to build its new corporate headquarters in an office building atop the garage.

    As the proposed garage grew, its planned location mover closer and closer to the south wall of the court building. The courthouse, built in 1975, presents an especially challenging security situation because its outside walls are glass. The north side of the building is within a few feet of West Market Street, a busy downtown thoroughfare.
ABJ folks are welcome to correct my research again, but this is the first I've heard about how the project, and therefore the controversy, emerged. So a paper 400 miles away gives us better information than the hometown paper of record. Kind of makes you think again about that whole outsourcing news to India thing.

The main thrust of the Times story is to put the controversy in the context of increasing concern about the safety of Federal judges. Unfortunately, the story in the Times doesn't provide any updates on the basic controversy. The city says the plans are evolving and will attempt to address concerns. The Feds seem to be saying that there must always be a space buffer (though as the Times points out, there is no space buffer on the north, or for that matter, along the west side of the building.) I can't tell from the story whether the city and the Feds have been talking and what the status of the negotiations is.

For the most part, this seems like an engineering issue more than a political one, which is a big part of why I haven't covered it before. But the Times story suggests that Akron may turn out to set precedent, one way or the other, as the country continues to grapple with a post-9/11 world.

3 comments:

redhorse said...

Sad irony alert: the ABJ's publisher was at the Roundtable last week lecturing us silly paens about how to revive local papers. He had a strategy, one called "hyperlocal" news coverage.

I guess Akron's in Manhattan's hyperlocal area.

Anonymous said...

The Beacon has laid all this out. you must have been outta town or something... Google news searches often do not result in comprehensive listings of all that has been printed... Everything in the NYT has been reported in the Beacon -- the Signet deal, the precedent-setting proximity, the back and forth between the judges and the city, the city and judges' agreement to stop bickering... the paper even posted copies of the dueling memos written by the judges and Plusquellic. There must have been a dozen stories. A Nexis search would show this. I don't have access to Nexis here, but you may...
I'm a little weirded out by the animosity toward the Beacon that yer post shows because it really is not deserved in this case.

Anonymous said...

Indeed. It's all here:

AKRON PLANS $12 MILLION DOWNTOWN PARKING DECK

Beacon: March 2, 2007

ource: John Higgins, Beacon Journal staff writer
The single biggest-ticket item in Akron's budget for brick-and-mortar projects this year is a new downtown parking deck serving mostly the Chase and FirstEnergy buildings. The deck would become the city's ninth public parking garage and is expected to cost $12.6 million, including about $900,000 to upgrade the existing Superblock garage already serving those buildings. The new deck would park 700 cars and could be expanded to accommodate as many as 1,300 cars,



PARKING DECK GETS CITY'S OK

Beacon: May 1, 2007

Akron City Council approved construction of a $20 million parking deck next to the Federal Building Monday night following afternoon debate about whether the city should continue to subsidize downtown parking. The city originally budgeted about $12 million for the deck to serve existing businesses, primarily FirstEnergy. The city anticipated that the deck could be expanded in a second phase, pending a deal to lease part of the land fronting Main Street for a new office building. In March...

AKRON PARKING DECK HITS U.S. BARRIERS:

May 3, 2007

Source: Phil Trexler and John Higgins, Beacon Journal staff writers
U.S. officials are threatening to relocate their downtown federal offices -- and 300 jobs -- if Akron moves forward on a plan to build a $20 million parking deck that would come within one foot of the federal building. In a strongly worded letter to Mayor Don Plusquellic, Judges James G. Carr and Randolph Baxter invoke the memory of the Oklahoma City bombing and say city officials have essentially ignored their security concerns over construction plans for South Main Street. The city and...

MAYOR FIRES BACK AT JUDGES" BEEFS

May 4, 2007

Source: Phil Trexler and John Higgins, Beacon Journal staff writers
Mayor Don Plusquellic fired back at federal authorities Thursday, saying the city is prepared to address security concerns over a proposed office complex that would come within one foot of the U.S. Courthouse in Akron. In a three-page statement, the mayor said the city's plans would actually enhance security around the John F. Seiberling Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse. He then took a jab at the federal judges, suggesting they failed to realize that City

CITY OFFICIALS EXCHANGE WORDS OVER DECK:

May 8, 2007

Source: John Higgins, Beacon Journal staff writer
Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic and Councilman-at-large Michael Williams got into a heated exchange Monday afternoon about why the mayor didn't inform council of the security concerns federal officials raised over a proposed $20 million downtown parking deck. Council approved construction a week ago for a parking deck that would be squeezed between the Federal and Chase buildings between South Main Street and Dart Avenue. After the council's vote, two federal judges

Published on May 8, 2007, Page B1\, Akron Be


ARGUING TO STOP AT CITY

May 5, 2007

Source: Phil Trexler, Beacon Journal staff writer
City and federal officials met Friday and apparently agreed to stop public bickering over a proposed downtown parking deck to be situated next to the U.S. courthouse. Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic emerged from the meeting saying the city will continue to work toward designing a building that suits the needs of the city and its developer while also addressing security concerns federal officials aired this week. "We both agreed to let the technical people, the engineers . . .

Published on May 5, 2007, Page A1, Akron Beacon