The last time I wrote about downtown redevelopment, I noted the growing dispute over where to put a new hotel -- south of the Grand Wayne as originally envisioned, or north of it as now proposed -- without saying what I thought. I hadn't really decided yet, and I'm still not quite sure, but it's an issue people are going to have to choose a side on, so I thought I'd say what I think, at least as of now (and granted that some people don't think we even need another hotel downtown at all; see some of the comments after the linked-to post).
As I wrote in an editorial a couple days after the post, it's really too bad we have to make the decision at all. In retrospect, closing off Harrison with the expanded Grand Wayne might not have been the smartest thing the city ever did. It broke up the potentially most interesting downtown corridor, from the railroad station to the landing, into two dinstinct islands. Anchoring the hotel in one or the other of the two groupings will naturally benefit the one to the detriment of the other. But we do have to make the choice. Which of the two choices will be such a benefit that it will not only offset the harm to the other area but bring enough growth to benefit the whole downtown?
On balance, I think going north makes the best sense. There is so much already going on there that a new hotel will act as a connector that can make people think of downtown as a place that has to be checked out. Putting it south, which would tend to make the Grand Wayne-new hotel-Embassy a self-contained little enclave, I suspect would just encourage out-of-town visitors to make their one stop then leave without exploring anything else.
That preference comes with one caveat, however: If we take the "baseball diamond at the Belmont site" (where the southern hotel would go) off the table. I'm still not sure a baseball diamond downtown is a good idea, but if it is, let's put it somewhere else. Whether the hotel goes north or south, the Belmont site is an integral part of the heart of downtown revitalization. I can't imagine any scenario where it would be a good idea to just let it sit idle for the next 10 years while we debate a new baseball stadium and wait for the current one to "outlive its usefulness."