Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Developers Praise City's Policies

Real Estate Developer
Rob Merry-Ship says he "is one of the owners of that building, which was previously the Bank of America building, and am also a partner of the Campbell Bell building, situated on the opposite side of the Square." He adds that he is "happy that the mayor and the city have taken on the tedious task of pulling out the old, unlevel, cracked sidewalks around the Square," to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax money to benefit "groups having a stake in the Square," including building owners selling high-dollar condos and whose property values have increased.

John Nock and Richard Alexander are also owners of the buildings on the Square, as well as
the once promised 22-story mixed-use hotel, convention center and condominium project at Mountain and College. It is too bad that the sidewalks around the former Mountain Inn site cannot be used and enjoyed by community stakeholders as well. The city created a TIF tax subsidy district just for their benefit and spent millions on acquiring and clearing that site for the developers. Alderman Kyle Cook calls the project "an eyesore and a joke," and City Attorney Kit Williams says it "looks like an abandoned construction site. I don’t think that’s what the City Council ever assumed would happen." Alderman Lioneld Jordan suggests the possibility of fencing and removing barricades around the unsightly mud pit so residents at least can use the streets and sidewalks again.

Dan Coody has been strangely silent about the failed TIF project he advocated for Nock and Alexander in 2004. Alderman Bobby Ferrell
says he is "hopeful that our administration, which are the ones that kind of led us into this project, will be advising us. They need to come to us before (the last payment ) and give us the ups and downs of the situation. We don’t need any surprises." Alexander contends that East Square Development LLC owes no further damages to the city for the eyesore or what they have failed to do. “In my opinion, at that point our obligations to the city are over. We own that land fee simple absolute. The city has been paid the full benefit of its bargain,” he said.

Nock and Alexander are also the owners of
South-Pass Development Co. LLC, along with Hank Broyles, who was previously involved with the failed Aspen Ridge project. Their proposed SouthPass development out southwest of I-540 could go before the Planning Commission at its July 28 meeting. Steve Aust, project manager, said the owners have generously given the city land for a park. “In return for that,” he explained, “there will be some compromise on who builds the road through the middle of the park. Obviously the parks are going to build their own roads." And Connie Edmonston, the mayor's Parks and Recreation director, has estimated that it could cost taxpayers another $20 million to build the park in the development.

Developer Merry-Ship channeled John Lewis and said,
"I’m certain that John Lewis would have given kudos to Mayor Coody for his persistence, forward thinking and stewardship in preserving our Square." I wonder what John Lewis would have to say about the Renaissance Eyesore and the $20 million price tag for a park in a development miles from the center of town.

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