So NSD has come to City Council looking for help. What do they want? A chunk of money? Stimulus funds? A tax break? No: they just need City Council to divide their property into two lots, one for the garage (which is profitable) and one for the mall (which currently is not). Such a division is apparently required in order to secure financing. Chris Bortz,--the chair of Council's Economic Development Committee--is standing in the way. According to the article:
At issue is whether Northeastern has a long-term commitment to the mall–or if it’s just asking for the separation so that it’s in a better position to sell the less lucrative retail space.“The question remains, ‘What if?’” says councilman Chris Bortz, who chairs the economic development committee. “We don’t want to be left in a situation where we have a dark mall and the attached parking garage is doing just fine. They may have the best intentions, but we can’t predict the future.”
Davis said the concern is unjustified. “What good is it to own a parking garage next to property that is vacant?” he said. “We’ve spent millions of dollars to buy this, and we want it to be successful. Fourth Street has great potential, and to say we helped turn Tower Place around, I’d love to put that feather in my hat.”
Bortz said he’s doesn’t plan to revisit Northeastern’s request until the council receives the firm’s plan for the mall. “It’s in a holding pattern for now,” he said.
So let's review. Tower Place Mall wants to bring new in new tenants. Its ability to do so is derived, at least in part, from its ability to secure financing to upgrade the facility. And its ability to get financing is dependent on the lot subdivision it is requesting from Council. But Bortz won't even take the matter up for consideration until Tower Place tells him who its tenants will be--which it can't do, because it's likely no one will commit until the financing is in place. Brilliant.
One wonders what the problem is here. Why does the legal division of the property make it more likely that we'll have a "dark mall" with a vibrant parking garage? That's nearly what we have now. And if NSD isn't able to secure financing, that is what we'll end up with for sure.Chris Bortz's experience with residential development has been an asset for City Council the last few years. But this is another example of how City Council is, on balance, pretty inept when it comes to downtown, non-residential development.
For those of you who favor the streetcar (as Bortz does), remember: a streetcar is great, but no one will ride it if there's nothing to do once you get off. Tower Place Mall sits just a block off the proposed streetcar route, and if it's revitalized properly it will be a significant draw downtown.
We threw millions of dollars at Saks to stay in town. We can't help another company out with a simple administrative matter? Why does it seem lately that if a development project isn't being run by 3CDC, Council just doesn't care about it? With regional unemployment at its highest in a quarter-century, City Council should be making it easier for business to operate, not harder.