Monday, September 07, 2009

The Standard-Examiner Reports on Boss Godfrey's Central City Fixer-Upper Project

Does Ogden City's most prominent "real estate flipper" rightfully deserve to place his Central City Fixer-Upper Project in the "win" column?

Tantalizing front page article in this morning's Standard-Examiner, focusing on the heretofore mainly unheralded efforts of the the Godfrey administration to revitalize the Ogden Central City area, by purchasing, refurbishing, razing and/or rebuilding dilapidated residential properties, and then putting them back on the local real estate market:
Renewal a home at a time
Long-time Emerald City political wonks will remember when the Godfrey administration negotiated an exclusive agreement with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to purchase foreclosed or otherwise repo'd HUD properties, fix them up, and then "flip" them for a profit. Well, according to this morning's Scott Schwebke story, it would appear that the administration has become quite deeply (and possibly successfully) involved in that. As a matter of fact, it would appear that Boss Godfrey may have simply ditched the original plan (to refurbish and sell these properties to low-income residents) and instead put together an in-house operation which might arguably be the biggest "real estate flipper" in Ogden City.

At the time the administration negotiated this HUD agreement, we recall significant grousing from members of the Ogden real estate community, inasmuch as this insider deal would squeeze private investor "flippers" out of the HUD repo market. Moreover, we heard complaints that these properties, once placed into Ogden City ownership, would erode the local tax base, inasmuch as city-owned real estate is exempt from the property tax rolls.

Disregarding for the moment the above two objections, we'll say that from the point of view of central city aesthetics at least, the photos accompanying Mr. Schwebke's morning article do convey a suggestion that Godfrey's inner city real estate may actually be a success. A couple of "before and after"pictures tell a couple of thousand words:


We gotta say we loved these particular before and after pics. And we do confess we did ask ourselves whether a hypothetical private investor/flipper would have devoted the necessary capital to removing that grotesque "Faux Greco-roman Revival" facade... and to expending the extra dough which was obviously required for the highly-detailed "Victorian Style" restoration and remodeling.

We'll admit our curiosity was piqued by this morning's Schwebke story. Unfortunately, Mr. Schwebke left us hanging. What's missing from Mr. Schwebke's story is the financial bottom line. Is Godfrey's Central City Fixer-Upper Project operating at a profit, or even a break-even? Or is this project running in the red, like most other administration projects?

Ace Reporter Schwebke had the opportunity to deliver a blockbuster story this morning; but he instead delivered another puff piece, we think.

Financial figures, Mr. Schwebke! That's what thoughtful Emerald City lumpencitizens want to see.

Before closing, we'll also add that we're not unaware of the intangibles here. Aside from increasing the property values of neighboring properties, in what other ways do the projects which Mr. Schwebke touts benefit the taxpayers? The value of removing "problem" apartment conversions from the Central City area is something to which nobody can readily attach a dollar figure. Does Boss Godfrey rightfully deserve to place his Central City Fixer-Upper Project in the column labeled "successful?" Should those fiscally-conservative lumpencitizens among us make an exception to the general rule, i.e., that local governments should not be directly involved as "principals" in real estate development?

Even though it's a holiday, we're sure that there are more than a few WCF readers who'll check in here today. Hopefully today's article will provide fodder for at least some new WCF discussion.

Take it away, WCF readers.

39 comments:

Curmudgeon said...

Rudi:

In the book reviewing biz, it's a common complaint by authors [often justified] that a reviewer did not review the book they wrote, but the book the reviewer thinks they should have written. Seems a little of that is going on in your critique of Mr. Schwebke's housing story this morning.

The story was about the renovation and revitalization program, and how it seems to be working to make neighborhoods more attractive, to re-establish single family homes, etc. It was not, and clearly was not intended to be, an investigative muckraking piece looking into finances and how revenues are stacking up against expenditures. That may have been the article you wanted written, and I agree it might be an interesting one to read. But in this case, it's not the story, I think, the paper set out to write. I think you might be criticizing an apple for not being an orange. So to speak. Just because a story isn't a muckraking expose doesn't necessarily make it a puff piece.

On balance, the program [funded by the Feds, Republican readers please note] seems to be having a good impact in Ogden overall. I found the story both interesting an informative.

RudiZink said...

"The story was about the renovation and revitalization program, and how it seems to be working to make neighborhoods more attractive, to re-establish single family homes, etc."

LOL, Curm.

Right. A "puff piece," as I said.

Looks like you and I will have to agree to disgree again.

Dan S. said...

Rudi,

The before/after photos that you copied from the article are of the house that Steve and Nancy Jones bought and renovated. Perhaps the city was involved with that house at an earlier stage, but most of the credit should go to the Jonses, not to the city.

Biker Babe said...

just sayin ...

success doesn't necessarily have to be measured in dollars ... just as cost is not always measured in dollars ....

just sayin

BB

Curmudgeon said...

You know, sometimes the prissy fastidiousness of the folks who run Ogden City gets downright laughable.

I was over on the SE site, and a big add comes up on the right for next week's "Mountain to Metro" event. I clicked on the ad to find out what was going on downtown next weekend. And among the attractions listed I found this:

"Food and Beverage Garden."

Beverage garden?. Beverage means "beer," doesn't it? Beer garden? Are the city fathers truly afraid that letting people know that at Ogden's big Fall street festival there will be [shhhhhhh.... send the chirren' out of the room!] beer available? Are they worried that its mere mention, should innocent eyes happen upon it, will send younguns careening down the slippery slope of alcoholism, drug use, hub-cap stealing, nipple rings and voting Democratic?

It's a beer garden, right? Then say so, for Ra's sake. People who see the ad might like to know that. It might make the event a little more attractive to them. Really.

I'm a little concerned by the "garden" aspect. Last year, the whole two block area of 25th Street was a "festival zone," and their were brew purveyors at various locations, and you could buy a cup, and actually walk up and down the street, watching events, meetin' an' greetin', enjoying the day, listening to some music perhaps, with beer in hand, right in front of god and everybody. Kind of fun, actually. And lo and behold, the city was still standing the next morning. God had not smitten Ogden and ground it into dust. Life went on. Imagine that.

But this year, the ad says, a "beverage garden." I hope that doesn't mean we're returning to the old "corral the sinners!" approach to festival beveraging here in Junction City.

Does it?

B C said...

Curm got this one right. Even though, at its inception, this "Management Asset" program miffed some realtors who "flipped" houses, the program has morphed into a damn good program which is serving as an asset to the City and its residents. Also, let it be known that there's a big difference in "flipping" houses and purchasing a distressed property, remodeling it correctly, then putting it on the market and selling a nice product, which is what Home Sweet Ogden does.

Before you pass judgement, which I had absolutely NO DOUBT that it would be negative, go walk through one of the houses and if you LOOK, you'll see what I mean. CD does a fine job of putting a good product on the market and the houses sell at a very reasonable rate and price.

EVERYTHING the City does can't always be bad. That attitude is a little over the top. It's as I've said, some of you are still so pissed at the Mayor/gondola that that overshadows everything.

Get over it.

G'narg the Inscrutable said...

We went to look at a three bedroom apartment back in the early ninties, and found a one bedroom apartment with a washroom and walk in basement closet converted into "bedrooms".

Fire death trap, managed by a respectable woman in an attractive facade of a lifestyle.
We told her we would give her the going rate for a large one bedroom, plus a tip for her doing her job and leaving us the f alone.

We also have walked though a few homes purhesed under some old "Own in Ogden" program that fixed up decaying manses.
Although poorly conceived as far as long-term viability and waste/mismanagement, it certainly produced more than a few spectactular results, and is a memorable component of the current citizen-created Ogden rennisance.

Oh, and the woman fresh out of Glengarry Glen Ross? She took the money; said she deal with it on her end.

Realators; what can you do?

Danny said...

So let's see if I got this right.

The city government buys houses, fixes them up, then sells them at a profit. (The article refers to "profits.")

So it's just that easy, huh? Money to be had for the taking.

If true, why are not all houses in Ogden being purchased, fixed up, and sold at a "profit".

Moreover, why doesn't the government buy every unoccupied house in Ogden, fix it up, and sell it at a profit, and run the entire city off the profits?

Rudi is right. Let's see the financials, including the salaries of the bureaucrats who run the program.

This, and other Schwebke articles lately, are electioneering. It's the time of year that comes every other year, that the Godfreyites try to claim "successes".

This was a campaign article, devoid of any useful information. A true puff piece. How does the money issue work out - the whole issue - was left out. And of course it was; the financials are always left out of Godfreyist schemes.

The only ray of light is the city is using federal gravy to actually do something useful - other than enrich some Godfrey crony - and that is good. (Assuming it doesn't enrich some Godfrey crony is a big assumption though.)

Curmudgeon said...

Danny:

The way I understand it, the city buys distressed properties --- some in such bad shape they are good for nothing but tear down, and others in very bad shape but capable of rehabbing. They're generally in poorer areas where it's hard to find loans or people willing to take the risk of rehab or new construction. The "profit" from the sale of the new or rehabbed house is then put back into the housing program. If it in fact works like that, I'm hard put to find much wrong with it.

Having the city buy owner-occupied properties in good condition stable neighborhoods --- what you ask why the city doesn't do as well --- isn't really a parallel to what's happening [or should be] in this program.

Bill C. said...

Funny the pictures don't match the program. As Dan Pointed out, the Jones home was not part of the program, nor was the courtyard type apartment buildings owned by Tom Moore.
Haven't checked the rest yet, but the fact that atleast half are not related to the program being lauded says, disengenuous puff.

Ogden Fan said...

Sounds like a great program. I'm with Curm and B G on this one. Not everything needs to turn a profit. Neighborhood revitalization is a good thing. Just like the golf course is a good thing. Programs worth supporting with city funds, IMHO.

disgusted said...

i too would have to say that the citys focus on this section of town is a step in the right direction.

the city should continue to encourage this type of re-conversion of single family homes that have been turned into multiple unit homes back into single family homes where possible.

the city should also encourage the current single family homeowners that have been turned their property into rental property to get out of the rental business and look to sell their property to people looking for a permanent residence. additionally further development of rental units in this section of town should be discouraged.

i think the city also needs to step up crime prevention and improve the schools in the area. ths will attract a better more stable class of resident.

what does it costs us said...

You also forget the 6% or more the mayors favorite city realtor G Train pockets who is 200% behind the mayor and any and all of his ideas. Why can't the city sell the properties and keep the 6%? More money in FOM pockets instead of the cities till.

If I was a realtor or a company I would want part of the action.

Looks like sG Train will be running campaigns for the mayors choices out of her office again.

history tells all said...

You guys will love this. There is no date on this but it has to be our lovely Mayor

For all those interested. Here is the article about our mayor and I think he has so splannin to do.

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/09/world/europe/09iht-briefs.2431164.html

ROME: An American tourist was beaten by an angry mob in the streets of Naples after he chased down two men who had just stolen his camera, the police said Wednesday. The tourist, Matthew Godfrey, 25, of Utah, had chased two men who snatched his camera and fled on a scooter into a narrow alley when a group of local residents attacked him, allowing the muggers to escape, the police said. (AP)

OgdenLover said...

history,
According to my internet sleuthing, our Mayor was born in 1970. That would have made him 36 in 2006, when this assault occurred. It's possible the age was printed incorrectly though. Just how many Matthew Godfreys are in the habit of taking off after bike or camera thieves on their own?

disgusted said...

i think the city would get ogden more solidly back on its feet possibly even quicker if it redirected more of its money and other resources in this direction.

the city could direct a significantly larger amount than two million of grant money toward this effort. it would be a better use of city funds and other city accessible resources right now than what the bd department is currently doing with those funds.

Dan S. said...

Bill: Just to set the record straight on the Jones house, I'm not sure exactly what "program" it was part of but the city did make a significant investment in the house. Then the Joneses made an even bigger investment. (I emailed Steve this evening and he confirmed this.)

Dan S. said...

Off-thread: The Ogden Sierra Club 2009 Election web site has been updated to include questionnaire responses from David Phipps. (He actually sent his answers to one of our volunteers on September 3, but that person was out of town until today.)

RudiZink said...

Thanks, Dan.

I've accordingly updated Mr. Phipps's WCF Council Candidate Page, to include include his responses to the Sierra Club's questionnaire.

Monotreme said...

I thought, from his huge damn signs, that Mr. Phipps was running for At-Large A.

;-)

Dan S. said...

Getting back to the east-central neighborhood, I find it puzzling that the city would put these resources into revitalizing that neighborhood, but then resist an opportunity for an even bigger investment: the streetcar. Mayor Godfrey seems to be doing everything he can to keep the streetcar out of this neighborhood, and I can't figure out why.

joey said...

This program is wonderful, just ask the people who live in East Central. Turning run-down duplexes and apartments into single family homes goes a long way to stabilize neighborhoods. I'm w/ Curm and others, this is indeed great. One question I have, is this the program the City took money from to fund the Windsor Hotel?

G'narg the Inscrutable said...

Now that the auction of the Ben Lomond has occurred without even one bidder, and now that Rumors, everyones favorite stepped-on cocaine and drunk-spandex-grind house, has closed its sticky doors, we wonder what the next step for the landmark building ov the county will be?

Anyone over there in the FOM playground got 7 mil to buy a mismanaged and over-leveraged landmark hotel, and another 7 to perform badly needed work such as raise the ceilings, enlarge the bathrooms, upgrade to modern amenities and floor plans?
We thought not.

Curmudgeon said...

G;narg:

And the Ben Lomond had in the "Rumors" space a successful bar, the Club Esquire. Ms. Curmudgeon was a member. A good place for an after work relaxer. The staff was good. Club Esquire was forced out, members were told, so the new Ben Lomond could replace it with a swanker more up-scale bar to match it's coming four-star status as a hotel. What it got was the now defunct "Rumors." Ah, well. So much for that idea....

Moroni McConkie said...

What Ben Lomond "auction?" I thought it was in the midst of a renovation and refurbishing.

G'narg the Oblique said...

Banks own most of the BL again. Ian, Shane, and the rest of the playa's are out.

The solution on the BL is to declare shennanigans on the entire last 27 years of ownership: an unsolvable morass of white-collar crime, note the current drug traffic, and declare the BL an insolvent blight and a criminal asset of previous "owners".

The city gets the elephant for free, and can then, without the ridiculious amount of attached debt and inflated declared value, start to consider a way to turn it into the best grand downtown hotel in the mountain west.

With a green trolley coming out one side, and a black gondola the other. ;>

Libby N. said...

The Ben Lomond Hotel is on the Weber County Heritage Foundation's Historic House Tour on September 19th. I went to the hotel to meet the new owner and I was impressed. They really want to make a go of it. The polished marble floors in the lobby are amazing and the chandeliers in the ballroom are beautiful. Let's hope that they will be successful...it is a lovely historic hotel in a wonderful spot.

Curmudgeon said...

Libby:

Thanks for the heads up. I think I'll wander down and have a look myself. Mrs. Curmudgeon stayed there several times scouting out a place to live in Ogden and liked it and the staff. We used to put visitors there, in Ogden's Historic Hotel. Not lately. But that was a while ago.

I've been avoiding it lately figuring its run down condition would be a downer. Worth a new look see maybe. Thanks again for the pointer.

They will need to do something about what used to be Rumors. A serious downtown hotel needs a bar. And a good one.

Bill C. said...

Curm, you old dinasaur,a serious downtown hotel needs a gondola port, wading pool, slashpad and of course high adventure invisible parking. Anyone knows that.

mark johnson said...

Hey, I have an idea, Lets let envision Ogden have a big dinner in the hotel and sell it as a way to bring Ogden back and take all the money and give it to all the Godfrey candidates and we could have the mayor call some big donors while were at it and then have Blaine Johnson put the money though friends of northern Utah Realtors and then we can deny that we had any involvement in that deal. then we could go over to fat cats and the river park and then tell every one that because Ernst didn't build here it is all the council fault for all the failure. Then we could tear down the Radison and tell every one that the city owned it and the law suit for $5,000,000 is just a farce. then we could make Larry miller put up a new hotel in the same place but he would have to build a gondola in the middle of it. Then we could put up a glow in the dark golf course there and tell people it is costing us $300,000 a year and we should tear it down, and then we could run Edwards out of town also, and then we could call people that don't buy into this plan cave people because that is how we do it Harrisville, then we challenge all the voters that are against us that you don't live here and then Godfrey would win again, and then we could pay a lobbyist $50,000 for the work that others are suppose to do, then we could really sell off the swimming pools because no one swims in the filthy water that the water dept makes, and then we could put all the people in a head lock to show that we are for getting rid of bicycle thief, and then well go to Europe on Chris Peterson money, and then we could have a train wreck and call it cool. Then we slap the mayors wife and not be prosecuted because we are friends of Judge Baldwin. and then we could pocket $38,000 in campaign money because we thought we could. then we could have Christoper Cross be our spoke person because he is so cool. and then we could arrest some bicyclist because I can, and then we could get our name in the paper every day because any news in good news. and then we could have the senator Chief Greiner be the whiner for the hero that raped some girls and Scott brown put some porno on the city computer, and then we could have more and more of this stuff because it is so neat and cool and sexy and has neon lights. OH YEA.

Mayor Grodfey said...

Wow is that what this city is all about?

Just ask said...

NO, The hokie pokie is what it is all about!

Bill C. said...

What a deliteful little thread. An abreviated walk down memory lane, I'd love to hear the complete version, with every artificial high adventure indoor backroom detail.
Anyone's memory that good?

Curmudgeon said...

Jusk Ask:

That reminds me of one of my favorite bumper stickers:

"What if the hokie pokie is what it's all about>"

BC said...

Somewhere above, I read comments about the "Own In Ogden" program, which was a loan program, designed to assist buyers who couldn't quite come up with the Closing Costs and downpayment.

This is much different than the "Home Sweet Ogden" program that buys the distressed properties, fixes them up, then re-sells them.

And by the way, the commission rate paid by Ogden City to the Broad-listing Broker is 4 1/2%, 3% going to the agent who brings a Buyer (any Utah licensed agent qualifies) and 1 1/2 goes to the Listing agent.

Pretty good deal all around.

Bullet Sponge said...

They singled out the Jones house and Tom Moore's rental property which were both finished years ago. Aren't there more recently renovated homes they could have spotlighted? Seems odd. Makes me wonder if this program is really doing anything anymore.

As to the Jones house and money put into it, wasn't the idea behind the program you get the house at a HUGE discount, but have to commit to put a certain amount into fixing it up? That being the case it's not strange that the Joneses put more money into it than the city. That was part of the deal was it not?

BC said...

I wonder, isn't the Standard Examiner the reporting entity? Wasn't it their pictures that were published? Wasn't it their reporting that led to this column? From sometimes totally castigating Scott Schwebke to suddenly awarding him the Pulitzer Prize for his journalism here, it seems quite ironic that this blog would go in that direction?

Just Sayin--if I can borrow other's words.

And by the way, someone above wanted some other figures on this program: last year Ogden put 12 renovated houses up for sale through Home Sweet Ogden. 10 were sold and the remaining two are under consideration or contract. Pretty good results.

BC (bane carl) said...

Honestly, I think we should just trust our mayor in every decision he makes and should just support that, you know, and be faithful in what happens.

disgusted said...

BC

the citys home sweet home project should have a goal of selling at least 100 homes per year.

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