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New plans for Congress Square in the works

The developers of the Eastland Park Hotel were undeterred by opposition to their plans to buy a portion of Congress Square, according to city staff, and are now preparing a modified proposal for the City Council to consider.8-9-eastland-park-hotel
The City Council's Housing and Community Development Committee received the recommendations from the Congress Square Redesign Committee that opposed the Eastland Park's plans for the plaza, though staff indicated that the hotel's developers are putting together a new plan to utilize part of the park. The future of RockBridge's plans for the park came up when Councilor Nick Mavodones asked if the company intended to continue pursuing the idea in light of the study committee's recommendation to keep the park from being used for private development.
Greg Mitchell, the city's director of economic development, said RockBridge Capital has expressed interest in continuing discussions with the city about possibilities to develop Congress Square. He said the proposal they're developing will likely be different from what the committee previously reviewed.
"They're prepared to go back to the drawing board," he said.
RockBridge Capital was interested in building a ballroom or events facility that would extend off the hotel and into the property that's now occupied by Congress Square Park along High Street. The developers have presented a tentative plan that would use a portion of the park for the ballroom and leave a "pocket park" along Congress Street for public use.
The company's intentions for the ballroom were entirely separate from the rest of the hotel renovation plans.
Mitchell didn't indicate at Wednesday night's meeting if the new proposal will be a variation on the ballroom concept.
The event center proposal from RockBridge Capital was reviewed last week by the city's Congress Square Redesign Committee. During the hearing, testimony was heard about the economic development potential of having the space and the need to repair the blighted park, but opponents to the idea touted the need to maintain the space for the public.
After hearing the mixed public reaction, the committee voted that RockBridge's event center proposal shouldn't be considered any further and the city should instead work on ways to revitalize Congress Square. The committees vote was 7-2 with three people abstaining.
A revised proposal from RockBridge could possibly come back before the Housing and Community Development Committee as early as September.

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