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Patience is good for Park Avenue Project

No, Chicken Little, the redevelopment sky is not falling.

Actually, the decision to slow down groundbreaking for the Park Avenue project showed great wisdom. In this case, haste would not only have made waste, but could have been a costly mess that tied up tourism, stretched even the deepest of pockets and forced the city to negotiate while pressed up against a grueling time table.

Sure, the delay is disappointing. And none are more disappointed than the very folks who made the decision – the South Lake Tahoe City Council and local representatives for the American Ski Corporation.



But those who have toiled endlessly for redevelopment, like City Manager Kerry Miller and Heavenly’s Stan Hanson, are by no means discouraged or particularly surprised.

The pace to break ground in this summer for Park Avenue was more like a mad dash than a sustainable jog. It left no margin for delay or error.




In any other community, there would have been no delay. But with Lake Tahoe’s short building season, the risk of leaving critical work unfinished until the spring was simply too great. “It just wasn’t smart,” said Lew Feldman, the project’s point man.

Here’s what developers and the city faced:

First, there is the financial agreements that the city and ASC have to work out. While the two parties are very close, ASC is leery of shelling out money for a project that could be stalled by the building season deadline.

Still, that agreement is very much in the offing and the delay will only help solidify their working relationship.

Next, the city has to travel to Boston and New York to shop their bond proposal. This they were ready to do midmonth. Airline tickets had already been purchased. But that process also takes time.

But the real concerns aren’t financial, far from it. The city’s consultant has reported that the venture should be highly profitable to the entire South Shore.

The real problems are far more mechanical.

With bonds in hand, the city then has to acquire small businesses in redevelopment’s path. Negotiating such deals is hardly advantageous to the city if deadlines loom large.

Once the properties are purchased, business owners are allowed 90 days to relocate. If all goes as planned, the city doesn’t even own the land until May, the start of the building season.

Then there is the asbestos wrinkle. Most of those properties date back to the days before the asbestos crackdown, which meant the contractor, Perini Construction, has to undergo the complex task of asbestos removal, putting demolition of the area out another four to six weeks – again assuming no delays.

Then it is mid to late June before the first building is razed.

The actual task of demolition and site preparation is monumental. More than 100,000 cubic feet of dirt have to be moved. Even if a caravan of dump trucks lines Highway 50 day and night, which probably wouldn’t bode well with the tourist season, moving that mountain of dirt is not a simple process – and that’s if it doesn’t rain.

But, let’s just say the stars were all aligned and Perini Construction moves the mountain with lightning speed. It still would be the middle of August before it could begin pouring some 25,000 cubic feet of concrete that form the foundations of redevelopment. That’s a lot of ready-mix, to say nothing of the lines of cement mixers that again would have taken over Highway 50.

If workers had poured concrete day and night, chances of finishing the exterior work by Oct. 15, the end of the Tahoe Basin building season, is a crap shoot with the odds definitely stacked against Perini.

No wonder Perini and ASC balked. Anything short of finishing the building shells would have meant workers would have to cover the whole project with tarps and returned again when the snow melted. What an unattractive waste.

By deciding to take the project at a slower pace, the city and ASC have actually helped the community. The margin for weather, error and reason has been widen to the point it makes sense. Traffic in the height of the tourist season won’t be exacerbated by a line of dump trucks along Highway 50. And all the little motels along that stretch can enjoy the revenues from what many believe will be a blockbuster New Year’s Eve next year.

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