Sailwinds, Governors Hall and festival grounds, or hotel, retail, and townhouses?

CAMBRIDGE — Aug. 28 about 70 people gathered to talk about the future of Sailwinds Park and Governors Hall. It is fair to say that everyone in attendance were for continuing a public venue in Cambridge. But many residents of the City and County are not aware that while the proposed development of the Sailwinds property was presented with a promise that a viable public venue would be continued, there are no plans in place to do so. Also, the Board of Directors of Sailwinds of Cambridge has been asked to stop booking events as of Jan. 2, 2015, just 4 months away.
All of City Council and the Mayor were invited to this meeting in order to get answers about what the true time frame is, what is the plan for a public venue going forward and how can we work together to make it happen. The practicalities of making this work for the best interests of our community require total transparency and 100 percent commitment from all parties. Three members of the council attended, all of whom had no answers or details of the closed meetings taking place about the development.
This is what we know for certain. The Sailwinds property, now owned by the City of Cambridge, is one of the most spectacular waterfront parcels in Dorchester County.
Sailwinds Governors Hall and Festival Grounds have brought many thousands of people to visit, enjoy the waterfront and spend money in Cambridge and the surrounding area every year. It provides space to hold fundraising events, church events, gospel events, country music, hip hop, comedy, rock & roll, Latino  festivals, crab feasts, memorials and weddings. The growth of the venue has been limited only by the uncertainty of its continuation. The event schedule has grown in number and size in recent years, but large multi-year events cannot come to Cambridge without the assurance it will exist in years to come.
The proposed development is not even fully conceptualized or studied for economic feasibility. Nothing has been released to show economic benefit to Cambridge as a whole, its downtown businesses or residents. Possible property tax revenues may have to be bargained away, just to get a development built in a trying economic climate. The most likely feasible development would be businesses that trade off the beautiful waterfront. How does that fit with public access?

Agreement on a master development plan has not been reached. The guidance given by the deed to the property require the City to develop it within 15 years, guarantee public access to the waterfront, and that it be mixed use.
With what we know at this time, with no plan for a public venue, the choice is this: Sailwinds Governors Hall and Festival Grounds, OR Hotel, Retail and Townhouses.
Some will tell you that keeping the property as public is not possible given the deed restrictions. Development doesn’t always mean private development, and mixed use is defined as “more than one use.” A public space that is developed to fill two or more purposes is mixed use. Public access to the waterfront can mean total access and use as it is now, or narrowly interpreted to mean you can walk to a section of waterfront no matter how small.
I have requested to be put on the agenda of the City Council on Sept. 8 to ask the Council to join us to make this project what the people of Cambridge really want. Please join us and let your councilman or woman know how you feel. It wasn’t supposed to be a choice of either development or public venue, but if it is, my vote is for a better public space that brings people to this place. When driving over the Choptank would you be impressed by the vision of another hotel and retail stores backed by townhouses? Or can we do better?
Editor’s note: Mr. Reed is the vice chairman of Sailwinds of Cambridge, Inc.

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