Monday, August 10, 2009

Monday Morning Emerald City News Roundup

OWCAP has a belated epiphany... and there's good news for several downtown apartment owners

Just to kickstart the discussion as we embark upon a new week, we'll briefly highlight two Emerald City related stories appearing in this morning's Standard-Examiner, the two of which completely dominate today's Std-Ex hard-copy edition front page:

First, we learn from Scott Schwebke that Boss Godfrey's new Marshall White Center manager/lessee, OWCAP, has applied for a $450 thousand federal grant:
OWCAP seeks grant / $450,000 would build classrooms at Marshall White
Whether this is newsworthy at this stage of the game we don't know; but we will again remind everyone that there's a big difference between applying for a grant and actually having the dough in the bank. We'll certainly be keeping our eyes peeled for Mr. Schwebke's followup story however, wherein he'll hopefully advise us if or when the feds have come through.

Mr. Schwebke does provide one tidbit of new information though, which we found to be particularly enlightening. Apparently OWCAP management has experienced a bit of a belated epiphany, regarding the importance of keeping the MWC pool open:
The grant application demonstrates OWCAP's determination to keep the pool open, said Donald Carpenter, administrator of the nonprofit organization.
"We are more and more committed (to the idea) that the swimming pool adds value to the Marshall White Center," he said.
"Our ultimate desire is to see the pool prevail."
Carpenter said he has become increasingly aware of the importance of the pool to local residents since early July, when OWCAP assumed management of the Marshall White Center for the city.[...]
Carpenter would like to see Godfrey and the city council settle the policy dispute, but believes OWCAP should be unaffected because it intends to keep the pool open.
"I hope they can resolve it so that it's a win-win with what we are trying to do at the Marshall White Center," he said.
Perhaps Mr. Carpenter would have been more aware of the importance of MWC pool operations, if he'd negotiated his original deal out in the open from the start, with the full participation of all MWC stakeholders, rather than secretly, in a dingy Godfrey back room. Too bad Mr. Carpenter had to learn the realities of the situation by having the council slap him upside the head. Looking on the bright side however, it appears that Mr. Carpenter may have learned the same lesson which is inevitably learned by anyone who's been unfortunate enough to enter into a business transaction with Boss Godfrey... do your own due diligence... don't take Godfrey's word for anything.

Secondly, we'll briefly take notice of this morning's chirpy story, wherein Mr. Schwebke reports on the burgeoning residential community which is reportedly rapidly filling up the several apartment complexes in and around The Junction:
Life at The Junction / Residents live, work in the heart of Ogden
Good news for these individual property owners for sure. Probably good news for downtown Ogden in general. Whether this will ultimately translate into good news for the Emerald City taxpayers, who remain burdened by The Junction's unsustainable bond debt, we'll have to wait and see, won't we?

We have a busy personal calendar this morning, so we'll skip the microanalysis.

Perfect opportunity however, for our gentle readers to opine on the true meaning of all this, we think.

Have at it...

20 comments:

gutty bastard said...

With Carpenter saying that they have applied for a grant, sounding all giddy, it's a bit discouraging to me since I was under the impression that they have applied for several grants.

The other thing that bothers me is Carpenter saying that the citizens need to step up if they want the pool to reamin open. Just what the hell does that mean? The center is owned by the taxpayers, and was funded by the city council. Arent my tax dollars enough?

Godfrey gives the MWC away, and the city still owns it and now they want donations to keep it open. When oh when will it ever end?

Careful reader said...

The grant would cover only 25% of the cost of building the new classrooms. I hope their plan for raising the other $1,350,000 isn't as vague as it sounds.

Curmudgeon said...

Two points:

First, I wondered the same thing Careful Reader wondered.

OWCAP is likely to need a construction loan? Huh? As is often the case when reporting economic matters regarding Ogden City, the SE left its readers wondering what all this adds up to. How does OWCAP plan to raise the remaining 75% of the money it needs? If it's taking out a loan, who will be responsible for repaying it and how? Be nice to have been told that in the story. Leaving readers wanting to know more is a good way for mystery writers to end a chapter. Not a good way for a front page news story to end.

Especially since [point two] absent that information the story is [a] barely newsworthy at all and [b] absolutely not worth a screaming headline across the front of page one. That OWCAP intended to apply for grants to build new classrooms is very old news we've known for months. And in any case, even if it gets the grant, it will cover only a quarter of the money it needs to build the classrooms [which it says it has to build in order to save the pool]. Huge headline, front page? Huh?

Of course, OWCAPS sudden conversion to pool-saving is news of a sort. But that wasnt' either the headline or the lede. Tops, this story belonged front page of the TOU section. At most.

I suspect what is happening is that Hizzonah's advisers, once he came down from his Council temper tantrum, told him he does not want to wake up to headlines in January saying "Mayor Violates Ordinance; MWC Pool Closes!" That if he's got at least the intelligence god gave to an oyster [jury still out on that], he needs to make sure the pool stays open and he needs to do it in such a way that he can claim credit for making it happen. I suspect some interesting conversations between Hizzonah's lieutenants --- the ones who don't give the impression they come to work in short pants each day and don't think "It's my football and if I can't be quarterback, I'm taking it home so nobody can play!" is an effective way to manage a mid-sized city --- and OWCAP have happened this last week, leading to OWCAP's sudden discovery of the importance of the pool and its passionate commitment to keeping it open.

We shall see. In the interim, I'm going to sacrifice a small goat to the gods of journalism asking them to restore the SE's editors' news judgment ASAP.

Southsider said...

If OWCAPS builds these new classrooms, who owns them, the city or OWCAPS? And if they convert the pool, which we own, to classrooms, who owns them then?

And if OWCAPS can get a grant to build classrooms, why can the city?

I'm trying to see the value added by OWCAPS. Help, please!

Dan S. said...

Regarding the Junction story: I'm sure that this 75% lease rate was the good news that Richard McConkie was alluding to in an email he sent me last week. But it's a higher percentage than I was expecting (based on what I've seen looking up at the empty windows), and however you slice it, it's good news.

I was also a bit surprised at how reasonable the rents are. That may help account for both the high lease rate and the fact that, despite the high occupancy, Boyer still isn't making a profit on its Junction developments as a whole.

(Cowboy Partners is apparently an intermediary between Boyer and the residential tenants. The article says they "own" the apartments, but I'm not sure that's accurate.)

Now let's hope that these residential tenants make the ground-level retail space more attractive, so it too will soon be more fully leased. And finally, let's hope all this activity makes the office space in the new Wells Fargo building more attractive to tenants.

McConkie was unwilling to predict when Boyer might start making a profit and passing 50% of that profit on to the city. But I don't see why that couldn't happen as soon as a year or two from now, in a best-case scenario. (Please note that I'm not making a prediction here: the worst-case scenario is still zero revenue to the city from Boyer, indefinitely.)

The other interesting number in the article is the $14 million construction cost of the Liberty Junction apartments. The 2009 assessed value of the apartments is only $3.7 million, or $5.7 million if you count the ground-floor retail space and parking as well. Let's hope the assessed value rises significantly for 2010, so the RDA will collect more tax increment to apply to its debt payments.

Let's also hope that the taxing entities are fully aware of the increasing taxable value of the Junction, and will take this into account as they decide whether to turn their tax revenue over to the RDA for an additional 12 years. That decision could be made as soon as next Wednesday, August 19, at noon.

Curmudgeon said...

comment moved to the top shelf

disgusted said...

Dan S

did you look at the parking set aside for these rental/condo units in the south end of the city owned parking structure. does that effect the taxes for the city on the structure and is it another subsidy by the city to the developers at residents expense.

a single friend of mine tried to rent one of the rental units at the junction. he was told he made too much money for anything other than a two bedroom two bath unit which was more than he wanted to pay or needed. all studios and single bedroom apartments seem to be reserved for those earning $24,000 per year or less. wage earners in this economic stuation are not going to be making much of a contribution to the success of the rest of the facilites at the junction.

disgusted said...

godfrey is trying to set up the council to take the fall again it sounds like. by having owcap go after the $450k which they might not even get and then leaving it up to council to not fund the additional $1.35 needed to complete the whole $1.8 million cost. he will blame council for not providing the funds needed to keep the swimming pool open. fact is council should tell owcap to cut back the size of there plans to function within what they are able to raise without city help and force them to maintain all other services.

btw the $1.8 million price tag sounds inflated to me in that they are talking about adding 13,000 sq ft of classroom space or 138.5 dollars per sq foot. mighty nice classrooms if you ask me. and just how many class rooms are they planning on adding as 13,000 sq ft is a lot of space.

Curmudgeon said...

Disgusted:

What? The only apartments I know where that sort of thing happens [telling people they make too much money to rent the unit] are rent-subsidized apartments. Are these units being subsidized for low income renters?

Otherwise this makes no sense. If Earl Holding wanted to rent a studio apt. at the Junction, there's no earthly reason [absent its being a rent subsidized unit] he shouldn't be able to.

King said...

All this talk about a vibrant downtown and Ogden as high adventure is fine and dandy, but until some real issues are addressed in good ol' Ogden things will never turn around. I know several people who have moved out of Ogden to surrounding communities due its perception of being crime ridden (or maybe it is more than perception - I do live in Central Ogden and have seen a lot of stuff) and for the fact that the public schools aren't that great (with a few exceptions). IMHO, not much is being done to specifically address crime and schools (2 of the most significant factors influencing where people choose to reside).

ozboy said...

Mr Curmudgeon

I was wonderin the same thing about these apartments. Are they rent subsidized? If so, it is just one more hook in the tax payers to support the Godfreyite fantasies.

I have a bit of doubt about the 75% occupied claim as well. I drove by the place the other night and it sure didn't look 75% occupied to me. Remember, this 75% number comes to us from the same propaganda machine that told us the Earnshaw building was fully sold out before it was even built. You know the building, the one that sits lurking and empty a year after it was completed. These same dissemblers also told us that the empty commercial spaces there had numerous businesses vying for them and that the whole place was a sure winner.

It is very hard to tell what is true and what isn't with the Junction as we have been lied to for so long by so many of the Godfreyites, and we have had no competent and truthful reporting about it by our local media.

disgusted said...

curm im just telling you what my friend told me. hes usually a very reliable source. he did not mention anything about rent subsidies but he was told they would not rent to him because he made too much money unless he wanted to rent one of the largest and most expensive units. hopefully someone else can verify but i dont doubt my friend.

king all i can say is you are bang on in your comments. unfortunately the current administration does not want to address innner city ogden. my guess is that he makes too much money off his slumlord properties.

Rockford J. said...

Ogden has a wonderful cross section of humanity, the criminals the saints, the retarded, the apathetic, the pagans, the factory works, a few idle rich, and a whole lot of illegal aliens trying to kill each other.
And a big gap right on the streets in front of you between the haves and the have nots.
Its one of the characteristics that make Ogden a blast.
Living downtown in Ogden is like living in a mini-Chicago. It is fun.

Peter P. said...

that was a nice bit of news, heh. i cant believe what a fiasco. law suits, sillness, drunken bicyclesists. nice day to be on a local poli blog. have fun.

Ogden Dem said...

King - I have to object to your comments about Ogden schools - I would recommend you do a little research as to their quality compared to surrounding communities. Many people move to the county thinking the schools are 'better' but what they are really doing is looking for vanilla. And I too live in central Ogden.

Curmudgeon said...

Og and King:

I haven't had kids in a public school system in ages, and never in Ogden, so I have little direct knowledge about the overall quality of the schools [except that I know, because I teach them, that many HS grads in Utah are not prepared to do even Freshman college level work. Deficiencies in English composition, math, general knowledge and the fundamentals of simple reasoning are manifest. [But that's true widely across the state and nation I think.]

All that said: King is right that one of THE most important factors in drawing people to a community is the quality, or maybe I should say perceived quality, of its schools. One of the ways absolutely guaranteed to make Ogden more attractive to people with families looking for homes, condos or apartments, would be to improve the schools.

I think a good case could be made that it would make more sense --- result in more economic growth for the city --- to invest more in the schools than in allegedly "high adventure" gee-gaws like 40 million dollar flatland gondola tourist rides from downtown to WSU.

King said...

Ogden Dem -
Some people might move to other school districts looking for "vanilla", but I don't think that is the core issue - ethnicity isn't so much an issue as is the language barrier. Many of our inner-city schools have struggled with Spanish (and even if the children/students speak English, their parents don't). Also, look at how many of our schools have closed in the past few years - not a sign of a healthy district. A few years ago the State Board of Ed did a study on high school dropout rates, Ogden was at 49% (rather stunning). Another study was done not too long ago on high school pregnancy rates in Utah, and guess what, Ogden once again ranked at the top of the list. Like I said, I've had friends who have had children in Ogden City Schools who have moved because they did not like the schools, period. I haven't heard too many positive stories regarding Ogden schools. With good and attentive parents, kids can do well in Ogden schools, and a lot do, but I can completely sympathize with those who choose to move out of Ogden to give their children a leg-up in education.

disgusted said...

the citys has encouraged this deterioration by allowing residental housing to be converted to pure rental property and by allowing rental units within single family homes. this has added to the problem in that this has created a more transient population within the city rather than a stable single family neighborhood. neighborhhods that are not just stable but people within it that share a common interest in maintaining their homes appearance the quality of the local schools and safety.

northogdener said...

Ogden Dem, Sorry but I have to agree with King. When moving here from out of state I thoroughly researched areas and schools. I almost bought a house near WSU. While the elementary was one of the "rare" good ones in Ogden School District, the Jr. and High School was not acceptable. And "vanilla" had absolutely no bearing on my decision. I will say in the past 6 years Ogden schools have improved, but still wouldn't want my children in or even near several of the schools. I can only protect them for so long. Interestingly enough, I have 2 friends who live by me, both are/have been principals in Ogden School District, and neither would want their children in Ogden School District. Also know a few teachers who say the same thing. And vice versa, know teachers from Ogden, who teach here...and they bring their kids with them. Hmmmm....how many children do you have in Ogden School District? Are you speaking from experience, of "what was" and "still should be?"

Rockford J. said...

DiVinci Academy is the non-catholic alternative for parents looking for a 9th through 12th option.
Charter, progressive, strict, tin-foil-hats and art.
A board of directors that really care; bout as good as it gets around here.

Public schools in Ogden reflect the parents that live in the boundaries times the money allocated by the legislature, every time.
You don't want to spend the day there, let alone send your 11 year olds there.

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