March 9, 2013
There is only one choice that makes sense when it comes to the consideration of closing Third Street between Gay Street and Waller Street. Portsmouth City Council needs to make the move to close that section of the street as quickly as possible.
There are so many issues that can be kicked around over and over again, and, as with any major project, there will be just as many negatives as positives. But we believe it comes down to one issue and one issue only. Shawnee State University is our most important asset, and the city should go out of its way to provide whatever they need for continued growth.
Will there be inconvenience? Absolutely. Will there be problems we have not anticipated? Absolutely. Will added traffic on Fourth Street bring about a whole set of problems in and of itself? No doubt about it. But what is the alternative? The big picture is that the growth of Shawnee State University is essential to our uncertain economic future.
This is a fact. If SSU grows, continues to build, hires more people, attracts more out-of-state students, it will mean a continued influx of dollars into the economy. As the campus moves north, eventually Gallia Street could become a hub for new businesses wanting to be near that area because of the built-in growth. There are already businesses there that could benefit.
Add the expected addition of the Grassy Knoll project planned by developer Jeff Albrecht, which will give students places to go and spend their money, the plans to develop Chillicothe Street in the campus area with students in mind, and work for the construction trades — one of our best assets — and you have the formula for the possibility of a bright future.
Where Shawnee State has been at a disadvantage, is they, like most well-run entities, have always operated from a plan. It must be difficult to operate within a government that frequently operates without a plan and is more geared toward living in the moment (Not a classically successful model).
It’s like being given a dart and put in a room with four bare walls. How do you know what you are going to do with the dart if there is no target? Shawnee State has had a plan since 2007, and closing Third Street is just a step towards landing the dart on the bullseye.
First Ward Councilman Kevin Johnson said there will be “unintended consequences,” and he would be right. As SSU Facilities Director Butch Kotcamp has said on numerous occasions, they will have to be dealt with as they arise. He will tell you that even those involved in the planning know there are issues that could come up. That is true with anything you do to progress to the next level of any venture.
This city can’t be paralyzed by fear of change. Einstein once defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Anytime an entity proposes an idea to bring growth and progress, the other moving parts fracture and squable instead of galvanizing behind the idea of improving our city.
Portsmouth City Council now must take the next step toward progress by voting to close Third Street in the vicinity of the SSU campus. There are people who are opposed to anything that brings about progress. There are also people with genuine concerns and those concerns must not be minimized or ignored. But there is nothing that can come up that can’t be handled. That is true with any long term plan.
We must open our hearts and close Third Street and show our support for our best asset, Shawnee State University.