Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Walkway Talk

The skywalk solution
Proposed location of skywalk

A developer’s demands for a skywalk to connect the planned hotel at Harrison Square with Grand Wayne Center is an unfortunate 11th-hour wrinkle in the multimillion-dollar downtown redevelopment project.

However, city officials are working on an intriguing proposal. It not only would meet the immediate need but could also help the Embassy Theatre and help the long-wanted development of the adjoining Indiana Hotel.
City officials and representatives of the foundation that owns the Embassy and Indiana Hotel say negotiations are progressing smoothly, and they are hopeful an agreement will be reached.

The city has set aside $1 million for the walkway.

“Our biggest concern is, can we do this to an historic building?” said Jan Wilhem, president of the Embassy Theatre Foundation board, referring to the skywalk.

Both Wilhelm and Mark Becker, the deputy mayor, emphasize that the skywalk would connect to the hotel south of the impressive terra cotta that adorns the hotel’s exterior, which would be preserved.

The city is also looking toward helping position the Embassy to develop the long- vacant upper floors of the old hotel by seeking private financing to install a new elevator and complete some other work.

The hotel has two elevator shafts, one unused and the other with a working elevator that goes only from the basement to the third floor.

A new elevator would go to the seventh floor to enable development of the upper floors.
Plans to involve the Embassy and Indiana Hotel are not only workable, they could well represent yet another side benefit from Harrison Square.