The ink’s not even dry on the Downtown Coeur d’Alene Economic Enhancement Strategy, but the $45,000 plan may write the next chapter in the push to build a library at McEuen Field.
Doyle Hyett, a downtown revitalization consultant hired by the city in August, presented the finished report Monday.
His top priority was to “bring downtown to the water” through careful development of property around Tubbs Hill and McEuen Field. Hyett’s recommendations included construction of a public plaza, amphitheater and library on that land.
A similar project met with overwhelming opposition in February when Coeur d’Alene developer Duane Hagadone offered to pay $2 million toward a new library and garden complex.
The $6 million Hagadone Memorial Library and Botanical Gardens would have been built in honor of the developer’s parents.
Hagadone withdrew his offer after public criticism that he might be seeking to enhance the value of The Coeur d’Alene Resort, which sits immediately west of McEuen Field.
According to Coeur d’Alene Parks Director Doug Eastwood, the Hyett-Palma report has rekindled interest in a lakeside library.
“We’re extremely open to revisiting those ideas,” said Eastwood, who helped gather public input when the earlier proposal was rolled out. “It would behoove us to take another look at it.”
During the research phase of the downtown revitalization plan, Hyett led a focus group attended by Dr. Robert Farr, chairman of the board for the Coeur d’Alene Public Library.
“We talked about location and the attitudes of the community about site locations,” Farr said Tuesday. “We told him we thought we had a rare opportunity; that a library would definitely be a draw for downtown.”
Farr was uncertain whether room could be made for a library while keeping the popular ball fields intact.
“Time will tell what happens there,” he said, adding there are rumors of a new address for the diamonds. “If some of those clubs realized they might have an opportunity to build better facilities somewhere else, they might want to explore that.”
The library has not found an alternate location, Farr said.
Coeur d’Alene City Councilman Ron Edinger was the lone dissenter when the council set aside taxpayer dollars to hire Hyett-Palma. He opposed the Hagadone offer in February and said his sentiments haven’t changed since hearing results of the downtown plan.
“Not one bit,” Edinger said. “As far as I’m concerned, McEuen Field should stay as it is. I’d be against changing it to anything else - that includes botanical gardens or a library.”
Eastwood said recognition that the city owns “the prime piece of property in Idaho,” not influence by Hagadone, could keep the library plan alive. He expects a base of support from the agencies responsible for commissioning the revitalization plan.
“I think the Lake City Coalition and the Urban Renewal Agency are interested,” Eastwood said.
But Lori Barnes, project coordinator for the 16-member Lake City Coalition, stopped well short of supporting a library-specific development along the waterfront.
“Every time that’s come up we’ve said, ‘No way - that one is too contentious,”’ Barnes said. “As far as the coalition goes, our role will be facilitating the process of bringing all the interests together, but we haven’t focused in on any one thing.”
City administrator Ken Thompson was not available Tuesday to discuss whether the mayor-appointed Urban Renewal Agency favors building a library on the ball fields.
It is unknown whether Hagadone, who was unavailable for comment Tuesday, would revive his earlier offer of financial support for such a project.
Hyett was careful to mention that maintaining the current use of McEuen Field was an option, but said the ballpark and Tubbs Hill should be considered “a critical piece of real estate.”
“He also mentioned not screwing it up,” Edinger said. “If some sugar daddy wants to buy downtown property to build stores and townhouses, I think the city should make it feasible for that to happen. But I think that ball field should be left for the public to enjoy.
“The people already spoke strongly about their feelings on McEuen Field,” he added. “Only two or three were in favor of a library and gardens and the rest were opposed. That’s why Mr. Hagadone withdrew his offer.”