Koll Center will deliver on community ‘consensus’

The following appeared in the February 13 Daily Pilot

Something unique and positive happened at the Koll Center Residences Planning Commission Workshop late last month: consensus was formed. The headlines following the meeting gave the impression that Newport was split on the project — some for, some against. In pure us-versus-them terms, that may have been true; public speakers were divided pretty evenly on the project, as presented (“Speakers at Newport meeting are split on plan for condo towers,” Feb. 1).

But this is an oversimplification and misses a bigger point: Almost to a person, the public called for a vibrant, urban mixed-use community with homes, shopping and public park space at Koll Center Newport.

That is consensus on an overall vision and provides my company great direction moving forward. It is also a strong affirmation of the original plan for the site — one that was approved by the voters and that we have always attempted to reflect in our project design.

Yes, there are details that still need to be refined. For example, some asked that we move forward with the project as proposed, while others asked that we lower building heights and add more retail. But essentially all speakers — from teachers, to adjacent building owners, to environmentalists and lifelong Newport citizens — asked that this become a vibrant community and not remain as an underutilized parking lot over by the airport.

We agree. That’s why I personally committed to the Planning Commission that we would find a project that meets this consensus vision. New community development can be a divisive issue. But consensus around a broad vision can eliminate the us-versus-them mentality and lead to great projects. After gaining feedback from the public and Planning Commission, I am confident we can design a great project at Koll Center Residences.

Bill Shopoff, Chief executive officer, Shopoff Realty Investments