Duane Hagadone pulled his proposal Friday to close two blocks of Coeur d’Alene’s busiest downtown street for a memorial garden, saying he didn’t want an advisory vote to divide the community or jeopardize the library and public safety bonds.
Yet he still plans to eventually expand the Coeur d’Alene Resort by building a new tower of rooms.
Hagadone said he wasn’t taking any “in-depth interviews” and referred most questions to the one-page letter he sent the Coeur d’Alene City Council and mayor. He said he always promised that if his request to build a $20 million garden wasn’t in the best interest of local residents he would withdraw it.
The move came just days before the council was expected to finalize the language for an advisory vote asking Coeur d’Alene residents in February whether they would support shutting down two city blocks for the garden. The election already includes a $3 million bond measure for a new downtown library and a $7 million bond measure for public safety needs.
Hagadone’s letter said the advisory vote didn’t pass his test of what was in the best public interest.
“I do believe we would be successful if the vote were taken but it would take a major campaign which I feel would divide the community and also send out a message that would not be good to anyone interested in locating in our city,” Hagadone wrote.
He added that the council and local residents should embrace his gift of a $20 million world-class garden:
“It should be a project filled with pride, fun and excitement for me and my family.”
And that’s not the sentiment the offer produced. Instead, many people were angered by what they saw as a self-serving proposal that would close down the historic and postcard entrance to the downtown shopping district. Some merchants were worried rerouting traffic two blocks off of Sherman would hurt sales. Consultants hired by the Coeur d’Alene Downtown Association and the city said they liked the garden concept, but feared closing Sherman would hurt business.
“I don’t look at this as any kind of victory,” said Iron Horse owner Tom Robb, who was a vocal opponent of closing the two blocks of Sherman between Northwest Boulevard and Second Street. “It has nothing to do with Hagadone. I just felt in my heart it wasn’t the right thing to do.”
Hagadone also was concerned that the advisory vote could torpedo the city’s library and public safety bonds, which he said are badly needed.
“There is no question that a vote on our project will bring out many of the negative voters in the community,” Hagadone wrote.
The political action committee campaigning for the library – Citizens for a New Library – was relieved its measure no longer has to compete with the Hagadone advisory vote. Co-Chairman Denny Davis said he wasn’t sure how the advisory vote would have affected the library bond outcome.
“This is a long overdue facility that we need and I hoped that people could separate (the two issues),” he said. “We have lots of support from lots of corners and it’s good to have (Hagadone’s) support as well.”
The group conducted an automated phone survey Wednesday, asking Coeur d’Alene residents how they would vote on the library bond, public safety bond and the Hagadone plan.
Davis wouldn’t release specific numbers but said the library bond results were encouraging. He declined to reveal how the public safety and Hagadone proposal faired in the unscientific poll.
Carrie Cook of the downtown association said it’s good the library bond no longer has to compete with the Hagadone proposal. But she said it’s unfortunate an advisory committee was never formed to work out the differences to make the garden plan work for both merchants and Hagadone.
“It’s a very generous offer and it could have been really great for downtown and the Hagadone Corporation,” she said. “Too bad we couldn’t sit down and make a plan that worked for everyone.”
Hagadone adamantly rejected all compromise and insisted that the garden would only work if Sherman was closed.
Mayor Sandi Bloem said she heard from many locals who said they liked the garden concept, but not closing the downtown entrance.
“It could be possible that the (garden) idea could resurface in another way,” Bloem said.
Regardless of the garden plan, Hagadone still wants to expand the Coeur d’Alene Resort by adding a new tower of rooms within the next five years, but the timing depends on the market.
Initially, Hagadone planned to build the tower across Sherman where the current Johnston building sits. He recently changed his plans so the tower could be build on two potential locations south of Sherman, meaning the expansion no longer depends on the closure of the downtown street.
The two proposed locations are either on top of the A.G. Edwards Building on the northwest corner of Sherman and Front or over the resort’s current convention center and Casco Bay rooms.
The garden request also included closing Front Avenue, between Second and Third Streets, to traffic, except emergency vehicles and drivers going to the resort.
Hagadone also withdrew that proposal, but said the street remains dangerous for pedestrians trying to get from the resort to Sherman.
Cook said the downtown association would probably support such a closure.
“It’s an awkward place to cross the street and it doesn’t connect to downtown,” she said. “It would also make the Centennial Trail a lot better.”