Businesses protest PFD’s Azteca plan

Businesses protest PFD’s Azteca plan

Alison Boggs Staff writer

Opposition appears to be growing to the Spokane Public Facilities District’s plan to move Azteca Restaurant to a new downtown location.

At a PFD meeting Tuesday, several people spoke against the plan, including two restaurant owners and former City Council President Rob Higgins.

“The value of the business and land is astronomical. I would urge the board to walk away,” said Jim Rhoades, owner of Rock City Grill.

Though it has not been approved by the board yet, the PFD has formed a deal with Azteca to move the Mexican restaurant off land needed for the Convention Center expansion.

The PFD is the agency responsible for overseeing the Spokane Arena, Opera House, Ag Trade Center and Convention Center, including the planned expansion.

In exchange for its 57,000-squarefoot site on Spokane Falls Boulevard, Azteca would receive a 30-year lease on 10,000 square feet on the northeast corner of Main and Washington. Azteca would also get $2.1million to build a new restaurant and designated parking spaces.

Higgins said the city spent years putting together a comprehensive plan that aims to eliminate surface parking lots, such as the one that would be reserved for Azteca.

“It seems the Public Facilities District is ignoring those concerns,” Higgins said.

Jennifer Hoberg, co-owner of Luigi’s Italian Restaurant, said parking is her business’s biggest problem. She wants the PFD to come up with a solution that doesn’t reduce the parking available to her customers.

“I don’t feel it’s fair to offer such a great deal to Azteca,” Hoberg said.

In response to the crowd, PFD Board Chairman Shaun Cross held up the front page of The Spokesman-Review from Saturday, which had a story about the city’s recent victory in landing the 2007 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. He said the PFD is on a tight timeline, with the Convention Center expansion due to be finished in January 2007, just three weeks before the skating event arrives.

Cross said the PFD has worked for years on every aspect of the planned expansion to create a Convention Center that will be good for the city.

“It’s not just, we’re getting tired and we want to get it done,” Cross said.

The other board members restricted their responses to thanking people for their input. Before and after the public meeting, board members went into a private session to consider property acquisition matters.

The board has scheduled a special meeting at 1 p.m. Monday to consider real estate issues, likely to include the Azteca situation, PFD Executive Director Kevin Twohig said.

“The board took (public input) very seriously and listened very carefully,” Twohig said. “I think there was a lot of consideration of all those comments made today.”

New board member Walt Worthy, who owns the Davenport Hotel, said before the meeting that he hopes the PFD can find a different solution for Azteca.

“I’ve heard nothing but negative all over town. Every single person that has commented on it has not wanted Azteca to go that way, and I strongly agree with them,” he said. “It’s a bad use of PFD money.”

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