Thursday, January 18, 2018
Opinion

Manhattan Casino deal seems less enticing

Watching the debate play out at last week's City Council meeting was like watching a really good deal slowly falter.

When the city announced Sylvia's Queen of Soul Food restaurant would be coming to the Manhattan Casino, it was believed this would be a partnership.

Urban Development Solutions, led by Larry Newsome, is in talks with bringing the restaurant to town.

But during Tuesday's meeting, which included late changes to the lease that technically redefines the agreement, it became clear that what the city is getting is a simple franchise that could fade in a matter of a few years.

It begs the question: How does a document get before council without the city's attorneys at least giving it a careful glance?

Is this the same good deal that was laid out in July when the city first announced that Sylvia's was coming to town?

At least one council member appeared to have reservations about changes in the 11th hour.

"John (Wolfe), are you comfortable with approving a license agreement that you haven't read?" asked council member Jim Kennedy, who seemed to be a voice of reason at the meeting.

The agreement was modified because rather than a 50-year agreement, it is now an eight-year agreement with several renewals.

What happened with the initial 50-year lease that was originally approved? A bigger question is why did the majority of council appear to be slaphappy in its decision to move forward?

The city spent about $2.8 million on the Manhattan Casino's renovation in 2005. Since then, the building has sat empty.

The council is charged with acting on behalf of the taxpayers. Time will tell if they acted wisely.

• • •

Is it just me or does it seem like no matter what changes are made to the Lens, the naysayers will pooh pooh it?

Last week Michael Maltzan Architecture submitted a host of changes that should be applauded.

Hey, the outfit is offering shade. For anyone who has spent a summer or two in the Sunshine City, that's worth applauding. Far more interesting were the two restaurants, the floating dock and sitting areas.

But what has become clear is that opponents are dead set on keeping the iconic Pier, no matter what. Most alarming are the naysayers who complain that the designer is from out of town.

Let's face it, there are a host of structures in the region that are worthy of saving because of their architectural significance. The crumbling, inverted pyramid isn't one of them.

• • •

The arts community mourns the loss of one of its rising stars and the city lost a friend. Bill Correira was a sought-after artist, but to so many people, he was teacher, student, mentor and all-around good guy.

The last time I visited his gallery, he told me every piece of art that hung on the walls that October evening had been sold. That's quite impressive and speaks to the popularity of his work. There are a host of artists in this town who would like to be as fortunate. Especially in this economy.

But Woo just shrugged it off and continued painting. It's what he loved to do.

I had a bird's-eye view as Woo was being mentored about the business side of the arts on most Friday evenings alongside Lance Rodgers, Michael Conway and a smattering of other artists.

He had a quiet confidence that made him approachable and a sense of humor that made him endearing. He will be missed by a cadre of family and friends.

But the city lost a gem.

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