Tribune-Star Editorial graphic

Fall of 2020 does not feature a lot of economic confidence and momentum across this nation.

Americans’ jobs remain tenuously tied to the ongoing course of the coronavirus pandemic. Half of the 20 million jobs idled or lost in the U.S. after the initial COVID-19 wave in March have been regained, but the recovery appears to be slowing as a broader virus wave sweeps the country. Restrictions to slow its dangerous spread could reemerge this winter, limiting productivity in businesses and industries. In states and cities that resist such restrictions, the virus itself still could curtail jobs and output by infecting large swaths of workers.

Thus, any progress toward the future, on real projects, is a precious commodity.

Terre Haute has such coveted forward motion.

A proposal to build a new $20-million-plus Marriott Courtyard hotel and parking garage on the northwest corner of the original Crossroads of America, Seventh Street and Wabash Avenue downtown, was unveiled to the public Wednesday.

The project was presented at a meeting of the Vigo County Capital Improvement Board, the panel that oversees the in-progress Terre Haute Convention Center. The CIB moved the proposal forward with a 5-0 procedural vote, allowing the Terre Haute City Redevelopment Commission to take ownership of the lot currently occupied by the Vigo County School Corp. administration building.

If all goes as planned, Hoosier hotelier Tim Dora’s Terminal Hotel Partners LLC will develop the $20-million Marriott Courtyard and parking garage complex on that land.

The school district sold the property to the CIB for $3 million as part of a VCSC cost-reduction plan. The VCSC can remain at the site until next September, unless it moves to a new location sooner. The district building would be demolished and replaced by the Marriott.

The prospect changes previous intentions for a surface-parking lot at the site and sets up encouraging possibilities for the downtown cityscape. The hotel parking garage rooftop could feature a pool, fire pit and outdoor seating, and a bar or restaurant overlooking the Crossroads. A covered walkway would extend from the Marriott across Seventh Street to the Hilton Garden Inn and the new convention center.

The project is “in a very preliminary stage,” said Steve Witt, city redevelopment director and a CIB member. Thus, changes could come, and the timeline is not yet defined. But, it is a “very exciting project,” Witt added.

Dora’s interest stands as a pillar of encouragement. His group also owns and operates the Hilton Garden Inn and Candlewood Suites downtown, and the Holiday Inn Express and Home2 Suites by Hilton on the city’s growing east side at the Indiana 46 exit of Interstate 70.

This latest venture shows a belief that an investment in downtown Terre Haute can be profitable.

It also represents a series of ventures, private and public, that will shape the community’s economy and culture for decades to come. Construction of the $32-million convention center is underway, with half of its foundation already set in place. That project includes a new Larry Bird Museum, honoring the former Indiana State University great and adding to the city’s healthy museum and gallery roster.

ISU’s $50-million renovation of Bird’s former home court, Hulman Center, wraps up this month and looks impressive.

Hulman Center, the convention center, hotels and the apartment complexes added to downtown in recent years can further turn the Crossroads area into a destination. The arts-driven Turn to the River project will create a walkable connection of Wabash Avenue to its namesake, the Wabash River. A new Rocksino casino is being built on the east side, a $100-million investment by Terre Haute businessman Greg Gibson that could bring a million annual visitors to the city and boost convention business.

The list continues to grow.

Real hurt, loss and heartaches are hitting this community right now through the pandemic and its consequences. Addressing those critical needs should be the top priority for local leadership. Hope for life afterward is crucial, too. The plans for new businesses and opportunities provide one of the lights at the end of the tunnel.

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