Goodwin Square could be making a comeback. The proposed downtown plaza was one of 11 requests for funding reviewed by the the city’s Tourism Development Fund Grant Review Committee and passed on to the second phase of the process at the group’s April 12 meeting.
The TDF Review Committee is tasked with reviewing funding applications for new tourism projects in the city that are meant to increase patronage to local restaurants, hotels, attractions and events. Funds will come from $2.1 million in SB 942 and room tax revenue set aside to support local tourism, and will be dispersed to successful candidates in October, Economic Development Director Michele Mixner DeWitt said.
The funds requested by the 11 applications that moved to Phase 2 of the process total $5.2 million.
“We obviously have more applications than we have money, but they’re probably all good ideas,” DeWitt said. “It’s up to the 11 applicants to convince us that they’re going to increase patronage to restaurants and hotels.”
Of the 11 Phase 1 applications that were reviewed by the board, five came from Colonial Williamsburg.
Applicants will now have to submit Phase 2 applications, which will require more detailed information including economic impact studies, artistic renderings, market analysis and a business plan in addition to a standardized application packet.
These included proposals for $100,000 to expand wifi accessibility across the CW Historic Area and Merchants Square; $750,000 split over three years to improve Colonial Williamsburg-operated public restrooms downtown; $750,000 over three years to improve and upgrade downtown parking lots owned and operated by CW and $600,000 over three years for curbing and landscaping improvements along streetscapes in the Historic Area.
Most notably, Colonial Williamsburg also requested $2 million in funds split into $400,000 payments over five years for the conversion of its P3 parking lot into a festival marketplace called Goodwin Square.
CW first unveiled the project last October, with a proposal to redevelop the busy P3 parking lot behind the Blue Talon Bistro into a public plaza with outdoor seating, a children’s play fountain and a 12-by-19-foot video screen. The parking lot would have been demolished, eliminating 40 parking spaces from the 48-spot parking lot.
CW pulled its original proposal for Goodwin Square last December citing concerns about the loss in parking spaces and the idea of the video screen.
In an interview Friday, Colonial Williamsburg Vice President of Real Estate Jeff Duncan said the new plan for Goodwin Square would include a temporary video screen rather than a permanent one, as approved by Planning Commission last year. All other elements in the plan for Goodwin Square would remain consistent with the original proposal, he said.
Duncan said the new proposal for Goodwin Square would need to be re-approved by Planning Commission and gain endorsement from City Council before construction could begin.
Other requests came from downtown retailer Three Sisters Boutique for three signs to direct pedestrians to stores and restaurants on Prince George Street and $280,000 from Culturefix for the installation and management of a temporary events pavilion for two years on the lawn of the DeWitt Wallace Museum.
Oak Island, which gave a presentation to city boards earlier this year on a series of seasonal pop-up events in downtown Williamsburg, has also applied for $490,200 to fund four pop-up events that would occur between the Community Building lawn and the Scotland Street library plaza over 10 weeks throughout the year.
The city applied for $1.2 million for the construction of a fourth natural turf softball field in Kiwanis Park. The Williamsburg Hotel and Motel Association applied for $9.3 million over five years to construct a 150,000 to 200,000-square-foot multi-purpose indoor addition to the Quarterpath Recreation Center.
The two proposals drew some questions from board members about the TDF Grant Review Committee’s responsibility to fund the city’s capital improvements.
“The Hotel and Motel Association is coming with the application, but they’re proposing that the city build it and own it and run it,” Ex officio member Adam Steely said. “It’s a bit odd.”
“This is something that’s been on the CIP out-years for years,” Ex officio member Elaine McBeth said about the request for the Kiwanis Park softball field. “With regard to the previous item and now this, which has truly been on the CIP for years, where is the balance between things that should be on the city’s CIP versus things that should be here?”
Finally, Williamsburg Regional Library submitted a request for $150,000 to transform the library plaza in front of the Stryker Center into a more vibrant gathering place with lawn furniture, activities, musical performances and other programming.
The board will receive presentations from applicants at its June 26 meeting, finalize its funding recommendations at its August meeting, and will present the recommendations to City Council in September.
Arriaza can be reached at 757-790-9313 or on Twitter @rodrigoarriaza0.