Sunday, March 01, 2009

Larry Miller: "Absolutely Pivotal" to Ogden's Junction Project

Enlightening information from the Standard-Examiner, concerning business interactions between Larry Miller and Boss Godfrey

Fascinating front page article in this morning's Standard-Examiner, about Larry Miller, Utah's quirky business mogul/philanthropist who was laid to rest this weekend. Charlie Trentleman provides some very enlightening information concerning the machinations between Miller and Boss Godfrey, in connection with Miller's Megaplex 13 Theater complex at The Junction.

Godfrey relates his story about his initial meeting with Miller, at a time when Miller (and his advisers) were skeptical about the economic feasibility of the proposed theater project. Godfrey initially won Miller over with a combination of his ever-engaging charm and plain old-fashioned American "get your foot in the door" sales technique:
Godfrey said making the first approach was still scary.
“Obviously, he’s a really busy guy, but we bagged him in his office for just 15 minutes, and I told him I had my pitch down.”
He ended up spending more than an hour...
(Anyone who has ever been "bagged" for a short Godfrey sales pitch has to feel extreme empathy for poor old Larry at this point in the narrative. The last time Godfrey tried to sell your blogmeister on one of his knuckle-headed ideas, the discussion extended over two consecutive days.)

And here's an interesting passage, gleaned from a point downward in today's Trentelman story, revealing why Boss Godfrey admired Larry Miller oh so very much. It turns out that Godfrey pegs Miller as a philosophical bird-of-a-feather.... They were two peas in a pod, from Godfrey's perspective, at least:
Why Miller?
“He’s different from everybody else,” Godfrey said. “He does things because he wants to, not because the formula says it makes sense.”
Although this nicely sums up Godfrey's economic development philosophy, as Emerald City lumpencitizens have painfully learned over the years, we're not so sure it was universally true of Miller, who had a reputation for normally being a shrewd business negotiator and planner.

In the end, Miller went ahead with the project in this instance however (according to Mr. Trentelman,) mainly because of Godfrey's appeal to Miller's strong sense of community... and not because the project made economic sense.

It's an interesting article, well worth a read.

And when you get done reading... don't forget to come back with your pithy comments.

19 comments:

summers eve said...

Typical Godfrey, finally anouncing that many of his ideas and projects are done because they sound good, not because they pencil out. The record sounds broken to me.

Matt is no where in the same league as Larry Miller was.

I have the deepest respect for the Miller family, and pray for their strength in this time of sorrow for them.

oldtimer said...

I wish Larry Miller had stuck to his usual assessment of a good deal.
If he had done that we would not have the amusement park atmosphere on our downtown square because he would have said no deal.

Typical Godfrey business venture with his idea to create a one of kind city with somebody else's money.

I might as well live in Logan because I never go near 24th or 25th streets in Ogden anymore.

My lovely city has become a pitiful caricature of what it once was.

RJ Svengali said...

As for dreaming up an idea and then running with it, statisticians and naysayers be damned, we call that magick.
A great bet if he has the force of will and good fortune to pull it off; a massive failure with other peoples money, if not.

Ogden Utah, the adventure sports capital of the nation?
Sure, totally implausible and out-of-left field.
And yet we support this gimcrackery vision, 100%.

Freakin' madman; go ego taxi, go.

As for might as well live in Logan?
There are many things we like about the city where we choose to send our kids to k-12, but as for local politics?
They have more incompetence, less vision, no courage, and just as much official malfeasance as any other small city, you can bet on it.
And air that turns sticky yellow, 2 weeks out of the year.

No one misses the old-timers down here on 25th street. We like the hot young things in sassy skirts, hoisting dads plastic, flirting their way through a crowded farmers market; the geared up 20 and 30 something snowboarders and mountain bikers getting a cup before they head to insane recreation right up the hill, and Bikram Yoga granola-crunchers plying the quaint little fashion shops that are squeezing into both ends of the historic district.

In other words, yes you can stay home and "avoid" downtown if you like.
The current increasingly hip aesthetic might wither your "old-timers" sensibilities.

As for us, we are going to go for a stroll down to Touchstone, just to see who is out and about.

Prolly some of the coolest bikers this side of Sturgis at Angelo's, and a few chubby gothic kids spare changing for a dime bag of dank.

We wil tell them you say hi.

We love this town.

althepal said...

Ummmmm... RJS...

When was the last time you caught 'power hour' @ Angelo's?

End of an Ogden Era: Angelo's Closes Its Doors

Try to keep up.

;-p

RJ Svengali said...

Funny, the Open sign is bright, the bikes are a plenty,...
Ummmm, misinformed knowit all?

Angelo's did not close.

There was a great cover band in there last night.
There are bikes on the street right now. I can hear them from my office.

Don't believe everything you read.

We love this town.
Even you.

danny said...

So by Godfrey's own recollection, he had the city buy then demolish the old mall before he had any idea of what to do, much less a plan in place.

It would have been a mud hole to this day had it not been for Larry Miller, so Godfrey says.

Next, Godfrey says that it was all done for Ogden, so people can have faith in their community.

Huh?

You need to take other people's money and buy then tear down a building with no plans of what to do, then go begging to fill the mud hole, so people can have faith?

positivity in a sea of nay said...

While I can't speak for the success or lack of for the entire Junction development, I will say that the movie theater is the best one I've ever been in...any city, any state. It always seems fairly busy, and I've been there at different times, most days of the week. I ate at Iggy's last Thursday for lunch. It was packed. The atmosphere is great, and the food is pretty damn good, too. I've been to Iggy's before when it was an hour wait. I guess my point is, let's not tab everything at the Junction as a failure, because it's certainly not the case.

summers eve said...

I dont think anyone is calling the Junction a failure, what I hear is that our Mayor has a pattern of doing things without thinking and penciling them out first, and he admited it in the article.

I dont want that type of person leading our city in that manner. He is the reason that money that was supposed to come from BDO to help with infrastructure is going t opay for the massive debt at the Junction.

Curmudgeon said...

Positivity:

As you noted, there is a distinction between businesses operating within the Junction [Iggys, Sonora Grill, Larry Miller Megaplex etc.] and the project overall. Some elements of it seem to be doing well. Others the jury is still out. Other elements seem to have failed. And too, we need to keep in mind what "success/failure" mean and to whom. So long as the city is picking up hundreds of thousands of dollars of the construction bond payments ... and it is ... then the project overall cannot I think be called a "success" from the city's POV since it was sold to the public as a self-supporting project, for which the city would not have to pay to service the construction bonds. Rent and lease payments and taxes on businesses in The Junction project were to do that. They're not. [The Earnshaw building is now stalled incomplete it seems and has been for some time. The Reid condo tower has been canceled entirely. No business yet has leased the restaurant venue south of Iggy's. The Wells Fargo business building is as yet not fully leased. Nor are the ground-level retail spaces all leased. And so on.]

So while as you note individual businesses may prosper at The Junction, the project overall has yet to demonstrate that it is, or will be be, a "success" for the city --- at least as it was originally pitched to the Council and voters. I hope it will in the end turn out to be a success overall. But it's way to early to declare that, and not all the omens are encouraging.

ronald said...

You really need to go downtown more. The restaurant to the south of Iggy's has blacked out windows with construction going on inside and a sign outside advertising the new restaurant that will be coming in. It looks like there is a Kinkos going in along Washington. In this economy I'd say things are going pretty well down there.

Curmudgeon said...

Ronald:

Excellent news. The last time we ate in Iggy's ---three weeks ago I think --- there were no such signs there. Glad to hear it has been leased and I hope the eatery will do well. Have to confess, I do not frequent The Junction grounds weekly, though I'm downtown that often or more. Mostly 25th Street, sometimes Sonora Grill, sometimes Iggy's [those are the only two Junction businesses we visit much.] Don't confuse "getting downtown" and "getting to the Junction" as synonymous. They're not.

As for things "going pretty well" down there: I'll agree when the City no longer has to pay the interest and principle on the construction bonds for the Junction, as it now is.

I'm not rooting for The Junction to fail, Ronald. I live and work in Ogden too. I have much to lose by The Junction ultimately failing, and much to gain by its succeeding. But I also know that the initial model for The Junction playing a major role in downtown revival involved as a key part of it many middle-to-high-end income residents moving into to condo developments therein. And so the Reid project collapsing and the Earnshaw building going dormant do not bode well for overall success, given the original model of how it was all to work. So, as much as I hope it all works out in the end, based on the evidence at hand to date, there is reason for concern, I think.

RJ Svengali said...

One solution to the "downtown Ogden problem" is to follow our own example and do as we did: buy downtown, live downtown, support downtown.

We would rather live by the amenities, and travel uphill to our hiking trails, than live by the hiking trails, and travel down to shopping, etc.

But we have naturally well-adjusted selves esteem; we don't need a mcMansion affluence token in order to give us heightened sense of selves. The era of mansions on the hill side, poverty in the city, is coming to an end nationwide.

And yes, we also save big on gas, Mr. Gore.

We love this town.

Curmudgeon said...

Ah, RSJ, that's one of the nice things about Ogden: it's equally amenable to folks like you who'd rather live close to downtown amenities and travel to trail heads, and folks who, like me, would rather live within walking distanof a trail head and travel [by bus, weekdays] to downtown amenities. Diff'rent strokes for diff'rent folks, RJ.

I pass over in diplomatic silence your false assumption that houses near trailheads are necessarily McMansions.

dap said...

althepal try to keep up yourself...and get away from teh keyboard. Some time you ahve to get out and see the news for yourself and not believe everything you read on this site.

Curmudgeon said...

dap:

The report of Angelo's closing came from the Standard Examiner.

Based on the SE report, I thought it was closed as well. I don't recall the SE ever printing a story to update its report that the bar was closing. Did I miss something?

ronald said...

I've been told that the Earnshaw building is not dormant any longer also.

A dirty Ogden biker said...

Angelo's was scheduled to close (relocate) last fall. The landlord who owns the building allowed them to stay these past several months when his plans for the space were delayed–they may have even fallen through given the economy.

The bar is now scheduled to close at its current location the end of this month and open on April 1 on Kiesel directly across from the entrance to the Conference Center parking garage. The location was previously another bar, which catered to our amigos from South of the Border.

Curmudgeon said...

Ronald:

That too, if true, would be very good news.

ozboy said...

The only reason that Miller agreed to the Junktion theaters is because the Lil Lord and the tax payers of Ogden made him a deal that didn't have any downside for him. In other words - we took all the risk and he makes all the profit, it is a no lose deal for him. This is true for every other business there as well. Boyer especially has absolutely no risk and they will make any money that could ever reasonably flow from the place. Besides that they have total control and can walk away at any time with no exposure. It is the most lopsided contract I have ever read.

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