At one point during Tuesday morning’s Midtown news conference at City Hall, Deputy Mayor Thomas Richards took a step back from the hoopla of the event and acknowledged, "There is risk." Then he added, "But put it in the context of the risk of doing nothing."
The observation came as he discussed the details of the city’s agreement with Paetec Holding Corp. to seal the deal for Paetec to construct its corporate headquarters on the Midtown site. But it could apply as well to the decision made more than three years ago to demolish the decaying plaza in the hopes of a better future.
Like politics, urban revitalization might be described as the art of the possible. Mayor Robert Duffy gave Mr. Richards chief responsibility to craft an agreement that will bring more than 1,000 Paetec employees downtown while protecting the interests-financial and otherwise-of city residents.
At first glance, it appears he accomplished that.
With a deal this complex, thorough analysis will take time. But it’s clear the city worked hard to negotiate satisfactory terms on a range of issues including parking and tax revenues.
All parties involved in the Midtown project-Paetec and the city, along with the state and federal governments-have quite a bit at stake. That is important and should ensure a commitment to success.
Construction of the Paetec headquarters should not be the sole measure of success. True revitalization of downtown requires much more. But the arrival of Paetec will be an important first step, and it should serve as a catalyst for broader redevelopment at and around the Midtown site.
Some people no doubt question the entire premise of the deal struck between the city and Paetec. They think government should have no role in the development business.
As we noted in October 2007, when the plan to bring Paetec to Midtown was announced, this notion fails the realism test. Public-sector involvement is needed to make this work.
Or as Paetec CEO Arunas Chesonis put it on Tuesday, "A project like this is only possible through strong partnerships between government and private enterprise."
Tough, good-faith negotiating on both sides has brought this project a big step closer to completion.
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