Back in May, the City issued a request for proposals for the adaptive reuse of the former Naval Armory on East Main Street. Last month, two teams submitted plans in response, and this week, the Council received public presentations from each of them.

One proposal is focused primarily on the performing arts, and the other is centered around restaurants, food distribution, and sustainable agriculture. But those very brief descriptions don’t really do justice to the plans, as both include a variety of additional features. So if you are interested in this subject, I strongly encourage you to examine the proposals in their entirety. You can also view the presentations to the Council here.

At this stage, the Council should not and cannot make a firm and final decision about the Armory’s reuse. As with all significant developments, additional study must be undertaken, and the Armory must be incorporated into the general environmental review governing the entire Echo Bay site. But we do need to make a preliminary judgment about our prefered concept and about the team with which we want to partner. While there are many factors to consider, I think the three most important are:

Vision: Does the proposal offer a compelling vision that could activate the site, complement the waterfront, catalyze other positive investment, provide services or facilities that would improve our quality of life, or otherwise generate meaningful public benefits?

Realism: Is the proposal grounded in reasonable assumptions? Can it actually be accomplished under foreseeable circumstances and without excessive reliance on public subsidies — considering physical, financial and other obstacles? While no development can guarantee success at such an early stage, there should be a clear and plausible pathway to the end goal.

Ability: Does the team offering the proposal have the experience, professionalism, competence, and access to resources necessary to execute its plans and to maintain a constructive, business-like relationship with the City and community?

The Council has not yet made a selection, and we have asked the teams to answer several follow-up questions. Once we do make a decision, it is likely that a due diligence period will follow, during which the opportunities and pitfalls of this project can be explored in much greater depth.

Anyhow, I encourage you to look over the proposals yourself, applying the tests I have outlined (along with any others you’d like to add). And I welcome your feedback.