Clinton Winter of Bray & Oakley, Eddie Canterbury of Logan Bank and Trust and Jason Bissel of the Aracoma Hotel told council members their primary concern about the closing was traffic flow in and around the downtown area, which gets congested every afternoon with people driving up and down Stratton and Main Street seeking a parking spot.
"We have had discussions about the permanent closure of Cole Street," Winter said, explaining that they represented other businesses as well. "We don't oppose the construction of the new state building, but we do oppose permanently closing that street."
Winter noted the state never did a traffic flow pattern study to examine how the closure would affect downtown and that businesses in the area would be losing a dozen parking spots which would negatively affect their business as well as the city's Business and Occupation taxes which it gets from them. Winter also expressed concerns that in the evening local transients, drug users and prostitutes would be an undesirable element in the proposed park.
"We would like to ask you to ask the state to reconsider this design," Winter said, noting that one excuse he had heard for closing the street (which was never mentioned at any previous council meeting) about homeland security seemed spurious to him.
"We are not against progress and nobody wants to see that lot sit empty, but we are B&O taxpayers and we could be affected," Winter said.
Mayor Serafino Nolletti said he worried that the state would pull the plug on the project if the street was not closed, to which Winter expressed doubts.
"Where would they take it to, the mall?" Winter replied. "It would cost them too much to put it there."
When Councilman Jim Guy asked the businessmen what their primary concern was, each said traffic problems.
Guy said that since the street would be closed during construction that possibly everyone could take a wait-and-see approach to see how traffic was affected during construction.
Winter said he felt a traffic study should be done before construction began so the design could be tweaked.
Mayor Nolletti said the state had other big-money plans for downtown Logan.
"It's coming, I have been told from the top," Nolletti said.
Eddie Canterbury noted that policing the proposed park would be a nightmare for the already overburdened police department.
Councilman Guy admitted that there is a lot of "riffraff" in the downtown area at night, but felt the structure would have its' own security.
In March, Charles Lawrence and Kim Paynter of the State of West Virginia Real Estate Division said architects wanted to close that area off to automobile traffic in front of a new state building to be built at the old Pioneer Hotel site. Lawrence said the state wished to build a "park-like environment" in front of the building, which would face Cole Street.
Lawrence said he understood the city might have concerns about automobile traffic congestion, however they asked the city to close it off to automobile traffic.
Construction is scheduled to begin in mid to late summer and be completed by August of 2010. Lawrence and Paynter said the street would have to be closed off during construction. The Department of Health and Human Resources will be primary tenants when the structure is finished.
At that time, Councilman Don Browning said it might be a good idea to wait and see what public opinion was and how traffic might be affected before agreeing to close it to cars and trucks permanently.
In March the council approved the move to close the street.
The move immediately met with disagreement from some city employees who noted that the park would become a vacation home for local winos who usually reside under the Water Street bridge.
Another employee noted the city has a shortage of parking already and that the removal of the parking spots there as well as the influx of new people working in the structure would require more parking, not less.