Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Another Boss Godfrey Grand Scheme in Jeopardy

Your blogmeister sees more reckless public bonding in his trusty crystal ball

More startling news from this morning's Standard-Examiner: Ace Reporter Schwebke reports this morning that Boss Godfrey's ambitious Midtown Village at the Junction hotel/waterpark project stands in jeopardy. The problem? Administration contract negotiators promised the developer the moon, parking-wise, but ultimately proved unable to actually deliver the goods:
OGDEN — A $115 million hotel and indoor waterpark proposed for downtown has hit a snag because the project developer can’t lease 275 spaces in a public parking garage.
Rob Storey, director of marketing and business development for Orembased Midtown Development, said it could cost the company an additional $4 million if it has to redesign the 14-story Midtown Village at The Junction hotel and waterpark complex to accommodate additional parking.
Dave Harmer, the city’s community and economic development director, said Monday he’s unsure if the lack of parking will kill the project. [...]
Midtown officials learned Thursday from the city that 275 parking spaces in the garage at Grant Avenue and 23rd Street that serves The Junction wouldn’t be available, Storey said.
According to an e-mail from Harmer to David Smith, an Ogden resident who has raised questions about the hotel and waterpark project, the city was initially willing to lease 275 garage spaces to Midtown.
“As it turns out, we do not have 275 spaces available in the mall parking structure, and Midtown has been informed that all the required parking will need to be constructed with the project,” says the e-mail obtained by the Standard-Examiner.
“The final agreement will reflect this change.”
Perhaps the adminstration should have sent Bill Glasmann over to the existing Junction parking structure to count parking spaces -- before administration officials drew up their proposed contract, that is. Just a thought.

As today's Std-Ex story notably reports, the utter sloppiness of Godfrey administration foot-work has been once again brought to the city council's attention by the always-attentive lumpencitizens. As we've learned over time, Boss Godfrey's grand plots and schemes, which are always long on "excitement" and woefully short on "detail," must be closely watched. Thank goodness there are a few community minded lumpencitizens willing to do that.

To nobody's surprise, Midtown Development director of marketing and business development Rob Storey remains nonplussed about this latest contractual glitch, however:
“It’s just a hiccup,” Storey said, adding that Midtown is eager to resolve the parking issue so a revised development agreement can be approved by the RDA board as soon as possible.
“Things happen.”
We believe Mr. Storey knows what he's talking about. As we suspect from years of experience watching the Godfrey administration, the phrase "eager to resolve the parking issue" is most likely "code," which yields translation into common parlance as "more public bonding." With an administration that's hell-bent to add a new hotel to The Junction landscape (complete with a gondola terminal) we really can't expect a developer who's already acquiring its target property on the cheap to reach into its own pocket to come up with an extra four-million. So in a circumstance where an $18 million bonding proposal is already on the Emerald City drawing board, we'll look into our crystal ball, and go out on a limb to predict that a new bond figure will soon emerge, exceeding $22 million, (an amount by the way, which will be devoted to parking facilities alone. )

This of course will all be happening at a time when Emerald City public debt has already soared to a little under $100 million, and there's palpable evidence of a rapidly cooling Utah economy.

Having said all this, we'll express our hope that our Emerald City RDA Board will continue to be exceedingly cautious as they consider approval of this risky project. Once a revised contract is drafted, Boss Godfrey will be soon trying to shove it down their throats. All we can say is that it would be a shame for our RDA Board members to leave the Emerald City taxpayers holding the bag, in the event that this project (and/or the economy) goes further south. Due diligence would seem to be the crucial watchword. Feasibility study, anyone?

Comments are invited, as always.

17 comments:

Curmudgeon said...

A truly incredible [literally, as in "unbelievable"] story the Godfrey administration put out this morning. And good on the SE for making it today's lead story. Mr. Harmer seems actually to be arguing that the [we've been told over and over] crack Godfrey development team managed not to notice that the city didn't have the 275 public parking places it proposed to lease to the hotel developers. This ranks right up there with the same crack Godfrey development team not noticing that the city parkland the Mayor proposed to sell to his crony Mr. Chris Peterson for a gated vacation villa development was kind of hilly, in fact too hilly on which to build. And the crack Godfrey development team managed not to notice that for two years, while it divided the city over its plan to sell the park. You have to wonder, if they're to be believed, just how big and visible something has to be for Mr. Harmer and others of the crack Godfrey development team to notice that it's there. Or that it isn't.

There's some character in literature, I forget who --- someone out of "Alice in Wonderland" I think --- who says he believes at least three impossible things before breakfast every day. If that character saw Mr. Harmer's statement this morning, he'd be one down and two to go.

Amazing. Just amazing.

Rudi, you wrote: Having said all this, we'll express our hope our Emerald City RDA Board will continue to be exceedingly cautious as they consider approval of this risky project. Exactly right. Surely the continuing members on the Council have learned by now... even the all but unteachable Mr. Stephenson... that the course of wisdom is to take nothing coming from the Godfrey administration as fact as given. That the council must check, and double check, and verify yet again, everything the Administration puts before it. Surely the Council members remember their own embarrassment when they rushed through [at the Administration's insistence] approval to sell the Shupe Williams property to a tile firm that, it turns out, didn't want to buy it. And now it seems the Council was within hours of approving a development agreement that included binding the city to lease public parking spaces it doesn't have as part of that agreement.

Surely by now, the continuing members at least --- and the new ones have just received their first lesson --- have learned to go slow, and that for the Council there is some wisdom in the old bromide Act in haste; repent at leisure.

Kudos to the SE for running with the story as it did. And further evidence, seems to me, that however mad folks might get at the SE for this failing or that editorial stand or whatever, if you want to be up on Ogden matters, it's a must read. It really is, news-wise, the only game in town.

part of the plan said...

This is the typical Godfrey bait and switch. First the project starts out with a small public burden, with most expenses to be the responsibility of the developers. Then come changed circumstances and "errors", and public money becomes part of the picture. Godfrey sells project first, and then reels in the council with previously unanticipated and increasing public borrowing . He continues to play it that way because it works.

dan s. said...

Curm: It was the White Queen in Through the Looking Glass who said "sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."

I'm amazed that everyone assumes we need huge amounts of parking downtown. Downtown is not Riverdale. For a traditional downtown to function, a significant fraction of visitors need to arrive by transit and get around on foot. Instead of investing tens of millions of dollars in more parking, we should be investing in streetcars to connect downtown to the rest of the city.

Good Reader said...

Good letter to the editor this morning in the SE again taking the mayor to task for sitting around and not making a move for federal money for a trolly system. The parking garage at the old mall was one of the reasons folks didn't like to come downtown, they felt it was unsafe. We need more mass transit to access downtown especially from the east bench and the college. I know bus riders aren't very high adventure, but the citizens of Ogden deserve good safe transportation, and not a gondola.

ozboy said...

"Due diligence would seem to be the keyword"

Nice idear Rudi old Pal. Unfortunately that word is not in the Godfreyite's language. It has been replaced with "plunge ahead blindly based upon faith in our dear leader", which was borrowed from that bastion of freedom and economic progress in North Korea.

I smell a rat in this whole deal. I agree that it is probably a set up for the Little Lord to come back in, on an emergency basis ("if we don't act now in haste without information the whole deal will be lost") and push through a $22 million bond instead of the proposed $18 million deal.

Either amount seems awfully high for a parking structure incidentally. How many spaces in the $4 million dollar parking structure at American Can? Could it be that this proposes parking structure is also going to be the foundation, infrastructure and support for the hotel? Another unidentified give away of tax payer money to real estate hustlers?

lou said...

Another brief and on the spot letter in the SL Tribune this morning from an Ogden "Naysayer"

So much Marble

somebody please said...

There is a current crisis in financial markets worldwide. The latest is in the Auction Rate Bonds which are usually municipal bonds.

Can someone check on Ogden's RDA to see if they are caught up in the Auction Rate Bonds crisis

googlegirl said...

Investors Shun Muni Bonds As Credit Crisis Worsens

googlegirl said...

Bond Issuers Face New Costs In Insurance Crisis

Curmudgeon said...

Dan:

Ah, the White Queen. Of course. Thanks.

So, to revise, if the White Queen saw Harmer's statement this morning, she'd be one down and five to go.

dan s. said...

Although the S-E article is fine as far as it goes, it ignores the elephant in the room: the gondola.

This Midtown building is already supposed to be 38% parking--far more than would be required for the planned hotel and condominium units.

The excess parking is intended for gondola passengers.

Take away the gondola, and the amount of parking in the building can be reduced--even without the 275 dedicated spaces over in the city's parking structure.

Our mayor is literally trying to turn our city inside-out. Most cities put the parking around the edges and bring people into downtown on mass transit. For Ogden, the "vision" is apparently to put all the parking downtown, then build a $50 million transit system (gondola) solely for the purpose of carrying people out.

disgusted said...

what i find distressing with the se story today is the claim that the city was going to "lease" the 275 spaces where in the development agreement it clearly states that the city was going to "credit" the development with the spaces. crediting the spaces for the use of the patrons of their phase one development.
big difference between a lease and a credit.
once again i think the se spun the story as best they could with a bias to godfreys postion and not an accurate read of the document.

Curmudgeon said...

Disgusted:

While I agree with Dan that the SE might... and should... do some digging around on the question of how many parking spaces a project of this kind needs [what's the standard for this size hotel elsewhere, e.g.], and in particular nosing around the matter of whether the Godfrey development agreement envisions excess parking that would make sense only as gondola parking, there is nevertheless no way today's story can be reasonably passed off as pro-Godfrey spin, seems to me.

This was not a good story for the Mayor. It left egg on the chin of the Administration's [they tell us] crack development team. Mr. Harmer actually had to peddle the idea that, somehow, he didn't notice that the city didn't have the 275 parking spaces to lease [or credit or make available in any way] to the hotel developers. And Harmer's embarrassing admission ended up banner headlined on the front page, along with the news that the Administration had hastily pulled the development agreement [supposedly in final form and ready to be approved by the Council] from the Council's agenda.

Would I like a much fuller explanation of the development agreement by the SE than I've seen so far? Sure. But there is no reasonable way today's story, its content and its placement, can be counted as a service to the Godfrey administration. It portrays them, pretty plainly, as Ogden's very own Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight.

fern said...

The old refurbished parking structure, and the new extension, covers an entire block of Grant Ave between 24th and 23rd street. It is three floors of parking. This afternoon it was virtually empty.
How many parking spaces do they need down there even if the new mall was successful, which it doesn't appear to be.

And why haven't they even started building the new multi story condo that was supposedly sold out last year? Needless to say, they have also not started building on the other big condo project that Stuart Reid is supposedly building.

And last but not least, who in the heck would pay big money to buy a condo next to a noisy arcade that appears to be a draw for hooligans and other undesirable gang bangers. I was there this afternoon and the very few people I saw around were kind of shifty looking. I sure wouldn't let my kids go down there alone.

jill said...

Dan-
Great comments and insight. I was perplexed by this "parking issue" article, it seemed like there was more to the story, and you've nailed it.

Any traction Ogden City is getting with building up its downtown, it is definitely negating with boneheaded schemes like this.

Two things Ogden DOES NOT need, more parking lots/structures and an urban gondola.

disgusted said...

curm
you miss the point. credits are not leases.
one is an asset contribution and the other is a liability. one a give away and the other a financial obligation. big difference.
developer wanted something for free and now the city is not giving it to them. city is taking back part of the offer that was put on the table. something the city shouldnt have offered in the first place. something that the city didnt actually have quantity wise to give and something that would have hurt the chances of the other operations to survive that are located at the junction. would be interesting to know just how many parking spots there are in the mall parking facility. 275 has got to be a large % of that total.
se obviously didnt read or if they did then they didnt understand the document or they would have recognized the difference. seems they pretty much relied on the administrations explaination which isnt what the city offered the developer.
am i glad they ran the story yes but i wish the would do some fact checking rather than just relying on what they hear especially when it wouldnt take much digging.

Curmudgeon said...

Disgusted:

You wrote: i wish the [SE] would do some fact checking rather than just relying on what they hear especially when it wouldnt take much digging.

On that, I could not agree more.

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