Wednesday, June 29, 2011

City tries its hand at real estate speculation

The first paragraph in this article says it all:
Fort Wayne wants control over how the land near Parkview Field is used, despite having no specific plan for development.
One would think that officials would welcome almost any private investment downtown. Instead, the city has bought this land so that it can cherry-pick potential buyers. If the redevelopment commission tries to micromanage downtown land usage, fewer businesses will be interested in locating there. It seems like many businesses "support" downtown but refuse to move there.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Do we really need the Harrison?

Barry Real Estate still cannot get the financing to build the Harrison building, which is part of the Harrison Square project that is named after Harrison Street. (This city has a habit of shunning creative names, but that's another post.) Barry Real Estate insists that the recession could not have been anticipated.

It's hard to argue with that. Even economists have difficulty predicting what the economy is going to do. But the recession has taken a heavy toll on the real estate market. The City Council did not know that this would happen when Harrison Square was approved in 2007. Now that the real estate market has changed, perhaps it is time to reconsider what should be in the empty space next to the ballpark. If the goal is still to generate property tax revenue to put in the TIF fund and help pay off the bonds that were sold to pay for the ballpark, then a new developer should be found.

Of course, many important and influential people are going to have conflicting ideas about what should be in that spot. But they should resist the urge to declare "My way or the highway". The city should let a developer willing to invest his own money decide what should be built there, as well as guarantee that his business will be allowed to remain as long as he pays his bills and complies with local ordinances.

Whatever your opinion of the Harrison Square project is, you still need to understand that companies have a love/hate relationship with eminent domain. They hate it when a high-value location is taken away from them, but occasionally they like having the city take an albatross (remember Southtown?)off their hands. If companies have to worry about their buildings being bulldozed to make way for the next mayor's grand vision, downtown could stagnate even if the economy takes off. Whatever happens with the condos, and whatever you think about the project as a whole, let's agree to quit using downtown as a political sandbox.

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