When the city hit the pause button back in the early spring on the planned Phase 2 master plan improvements for the DCU Center because of funding uncertainty resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, it was hoped it could be restarted in January.
Of course, no one back then foresaw that the city-owned DCU Center would remain closed seven months later. It is now expected to remain dark at least through the end of this year.
As a result, the possibility of a January restart for the project seems very much up in the air.
John Odell, the city’s director of energy and assets, told the Civic Center Commission last week that the restart will be determined when the revenue stream for it can support the work.
And with uncertainty about just when the DCU Center will be able to host events again, that makes the timeline for the project quite uncertain itself.
The Civic Center Commission has approved improvements for the DCU Center totaling $21.5 million. They are broken down into five priority areas: life safety and code compliance, deferred maintenance, public accommodations, revenue enhancements, and other enhancements/upgrades.
To finance building improvements, the city created a special DCU Finance District in 2006 that consisted of four parcels: the Hilton Garden Inn, the Residence by Marriott on Plantation Street, the DCU Center arena and convention center, and the Major Taylor Boulevard parking garage, including its retail space and operations.
In 2016 the district was expanded to include additional parcels.
Certain tax revenues generated in that district and collected by the state — hotel, meals and sales taxes — are redirected back to the city to finance the bonds for improvements in and around the DCU Center.
But when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the closing of the DCU Center in mid-March and the temporary shutdown of nonessential businesses, it dramatically cut into those tax revenues.
With the lack of activity at the DCU Center and with restaurants and hotels taking a major hit since the COVID-19 outbreak, not enough money is being generated for the project.
“We’re on hold until we have a better idea as to when the arena and convention center will be able to open for business, as well as the ancillary hotels and other businesses that feed into the district which helps fund this potential work, and that money becomes available,” Odell told the commission.
Odell said one project that has resumed has to do with upgrades to the underground electrical vault outside the DCU Center on Commercial Street. Odell said design work has restarted and is now about 75% completed.
Councilor-at-Large Khrystian E. King is asking the city administration to explore creating and/or promoting a voluntary cognitive registry.
The registry would list people with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, autism spectrum disorder, Asperger’s syndrome, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, epilepsy, brain injury, mental illness, and other disabilities that could influence their engagements with police and first responders.
King said the registry would enhance the perception of public health and public safety within the special needs community, improve and assure public safety and public health response efficiency, improve police officer and first responder safety, and further a collaborative approach to people with special needs.
The councilor said a similar registry exists, but it is based on addresses. He said the registry he is calling for would be beneficial when the people in question are encountered elsewhere.
In an order he has filed for Tuesday night’s City Council meeting, King is asking the city manager to explore the idea with public safety and public health department heads.
He also asks for a feasibility report to the City Council, including information concerning a public education campaign to promote the cognitive registry.
My Brother’s Keeper
District 1 Councilor Sean M. Rose is calling on the city manager to explore having a citywide My Brother’s Keeper program for young men of color.
My Brother’s Keeper is a national initiative created in 2014 by President Barack Obama that aims to address persistent opportunity gaps faced by young men of color.
The City Council last week confirmed the following appointments made board and commissions by City Manager Edward M. Augustus Jr.
• Samuel Santiago, Bernard Reese and Savvas Kosmidis to the Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee for terms that run through Sept. 30, 2023.
• Linda Larrivee and Philip Economou to the Accessibility Advisory Committee. Larrivee’s term goes trough May 31, 2023, while Economou’s term is through May 31, 2022.