Entries Tagged 'Developers' ↓

Is the City of Sioux Falls having a change of heart about ‘Washington Square’?

Not sure, but this press conference has me curious;

Come to the news conference to learn more about the Washington Square project and how City officials are proposing to support the project.

As I have said in the past, I was opposed to the massive TIF requested for this project, but I wouldn’t be opposed to something scaled back, like a low interest community development loan, financial assistance with cleaning up the alley and upgrading infrastructure in that part of Downtown, even some kind of lease agreement with the city on parking. But a large TIF for condos doesn’t float my boat.

Does the Railroad Relocation project have any value to Federal & City taxpayers?

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The (forced) announcement today, where the mayor announced NO questions from NON press. I guess we can’t ask how you are spending our money.

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The depot will remain under the poorly proposed plan

While nothing has been signed yet, the redline of the project was completed on Monday. The environmental study revealed that low levels of petroleum and lead were found at the site and 6” of brownfield will have to be removed before doing any development in the area. We will also have to put a security fence around the project while it is being prepared for development.

Where I see no value in the project is that two major RR lines will still remain downtown, which I assume will become even more busy. One of them crosses Cliff Avenue, and frankly is a pain in the ass as it is. I also don’t see the value in buying land to prepare an old RR yard for developers to buy. Then there is the relocation costs associated that we are basically giving to the RR. They are the ones moving, it shouldn’t be on the backs of taxpayers to help them with the move. While the developers will be required to do their own environmental study at the time of purchase, I still think all along this should have been a private matter between the RR and the developers. While the Feds did have to be involved, our city government should have kept its nose out a deal that is just going to cost us more money in the long run and not really solve the problems with train traffic downtown. According to the Mayor, it sounds like it is just going to be another park. Big whoop. How about cleaning up the park just 2 blocks away to the North?

The mayor, of course had to bring up the naysayers and how this project is bigger than the Events Center (thank God we are only building a fence and not siding a building). I find his ‘naysayer’ comment a bit hypocritical. I remember Huether being the biggest naysayer about this project when we were debating whether or not to build a Events Center downtown. I truly think that really put a hiccup in the process.

The city council will only approve this through a resolution on August 4th. No real discussion, no public input, no debate.

While I am happy that the tracks will be moved out of this area, this project is nothing more then another handout to the already super rich developers in our city AND it does nothing to end rail traffic downtown. Huether, Johnson, Daschle and Thune, thanks for nothing, but more federal debt. Ironic how Huether makes fun of Washington, but gladly takes money from them. He did it after the ice storm, and now with the RR relocation project.

Click to enlarge below graphic of press release;

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Railroad Relocation project announcement Wednesday?

That’s the $40 million dollar question?

Officials are expected to announce the details of the deal between the city, federal regulators, BNSF Railway and the Ellis & Eastern Railroad. Under the terms of the deal, BNSF would receive millions of dollars for giving up the use of its rail yard.

The first thought that popped into my head is how or why would we be paying the railroad for land that is technically the Feds (ours) already. This explanation is going to be an interesting one. While the land that their buildings are on could technically be sold, I thought anything with tracks laying on it are Federal right-a-way and should go back to the Feds at NO charge.

My second thought was why was the Argus briefed about this before the city council (who will get briefed in executive session today after the informational, probably about the project). If the press conference is supposed to happen Wednesday, why is the administration waiting less then 24 hours to tell council? When I talked to council chair Kenny Anderson about this a few weeks ago, he said that the lawyers were mulling through the deal and it would be announced soon. Then bam, out of nowhere, without council knowledge, the Argus puts it out there. Seems the Mayor’s office has a mole with loose lips.

 

Will the City of Sioux Falls & Lincoln County work together to get the 85th Interchange completed sooner rather than later?

As I told a couple of journalists the other night, I could give a flying monkey circus whether the project gets done or not in 2016. We need another retail park area in the Sioux Falls like we need (figurative) holes in our heads.

But there are some hurdles.

The benefits of the city annexing this land with the project proponent’s timeline could mean millions in sales tax revenue. The bad part is we have to pay for the infrastructure upgrades. A city official said to me the other day;

“So does the state want Sioux Falls to build infrastructure at the new proposed Foundation Park or at this project?”

He made the assumption that the city doesn’t have the money to do both projects at once and that is why the timeline for annexation was extended by the city. I guess that is understandable, but I am a bit skeptical, especially when you have Erica Beck from the Lloyd Companies stating that the 2018 timeline change to 2020 literally in a couple of days. Makes you wonder?

There is also a deep distrust of another CID in South Dakota. Dakota Dunes has been nothing but a pain in the ass of state and federal taxpayers. A bunch rich folk tax dodgers set up a community on a river bottom that is infamous for flooding . . . A LOT! Then they come running to the taxpayers and the National Guard to bail their asses out. I guess they want all the benefits of being a responsible taxpayer, they just don’t want to pay for it. I still think that FEMA and the National Guard should have sent them all a bill.

This brings us to a similar issue at this location. Though the environmental studies still have to be conducted, the same city official I talked to said there may be issues with ground water and low lying land. Which can be solved – WITH A LOT OF FREAKING DIRT!

Now let’s talk about the ‘political’ aspects of the project. First off, we know the GOED office and The Mayor’s office are not exactly a ‘winning team’. After Foundation Park was announced a different city official said to me;

“Foundation Park is getting done IN SPITE of Mayor Huether

In other words, the state really had to reign him in, or basically leave him out of the process. Don’t know how much of that is true, because I find city and state officials bickering to be useless pitter patter, but if you are expecting the state, the county and the city to get all on the same page and timeline on this matter, well, you are a dreamer. But hey, isn’t our Mayor’s motto, “Sioux Falls, we are getting things done!” (as long as I can take credit for it).

Then there is the developer side of this story. They could care less who gets credit as long as they are rolling in the dough, the problem is, there are more than one big wheel in town, and a couple of those wheels were NOT at the meeting on Tuesday. Of course the Big ‘L’ made an appearance, but I didn’t see anyone from Bender or RMB. Maybe they were helping the proposed Southside move dirt or something. It is no secret that some people in power with the city have made investments with some of these big wheels, and it seems some of these projects get on a fast track quicker than others. Quinky-Dink? Perhaps, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

So there you have it, questionable land, questionable funding, questionable politicians and developers and all kinds of ethical and priority issues. If this gets done by the end of 2016 (as a county/city partnership) it will be nothing short of a miracle, but hey stranger things have happened, we got a new Events Center built in record timing (just watch for the falling siding).

85th & I-29 Interchange presentation

Watch all the fun HERE, and my rough PDF document of the slides: 85thex-1-29

It seems a lot of fun stuff came from this, including an ever changing timeline by the city (jumped from 2016, to 2018 to 2020 city participation timeline in 2 short years).

I also seem to think this is kind of strange we would be passing up sales tax revenue by not deciding to annex this until 2020. Can you imagine having several big box stores in an area where no municipal sales taxes apply? So when you go buy a $3000 television you only pay the state’s 4 pennies instead of the city’s 6 pennies? Why would the city pass on this opportunity?

I will tell you why. Pissing matches between developers and those who butter our mayor’s bread. There was a laundry list of big wigs in government and development in the crowd today, guess who was missing? Michael Bender and Michael Huether . . . . Hmmm.

Why is our local newspaper endorsing a TIF?

How does that old saying go about ‘Fair and Balanced’ reporting? The Argus Leader Editorial Board and columnist Jodi Schwan both have endorsed using a TIF for the Washington Square project, something I would expect out of Stormland TV news (who is always sucking up to city subsidized projects) but I found it to be a little strange for our local newspaper.

Then there is the tired old argument that TIF’s are needed for any of these projects to succeed;

But it all comes down to public-private partnerships.

They’re not important. They’re absolute. They’re critical. You can’t do it without them,” he said. “If you’re setting out to do something transformational for your city, it’s impossible to do it with only private money. You need at least a third of the money … to come from the public sector.”

Let’s think about that. The Houwmans are looking for less than 15 percent of their financing from TIF with no other public funding. Stark is saying one-third is justifiable.

While I am all out opposed to TIF’s, especially when big developers make ridiculous statements about them being the lifeblood of redevelopment, let’s say for a moment I supported them. I think a TIF would be fine for the utility work and cleaning up the alley between Main and Phillips Avenue, but 15% of the total cost? I don’t think so. There seems to be this movement by developers (and investors) in Sioux Falls (who have already seen record growth over the past several years) to feed at government’s trough. While a TIF is certainly not a handout, it is a rebate on property taxes (and they are requesting the rebate for 10 years). While the County struggles to make ends meet (they are considering another opt-out) we want to give another private development millions in tax rebates.

Worst of all, they have suckered our local paper into believing that somehow we need more parking in that area (that can only be used at night and weekends).

I think this project should sink or swim on it’s own. No pulling strings behind closed doors in City Hall or at our local paper. If we really want Downtown to be successful in development we need a stronger concerted effort of helping private homeowners and apartment owners surrounding downtown with fixing streets, infrastructure and community development grants and loans. Neighborhoods and districts are built by individuals helping each other. A couple more condos at 12th & Main in no way should be funded partially through property tax rebates, and shame on the Argus for getting in the middle of the fight that is between the developers and our local government.

UPDATE on the Phillips/Banks project

Besides the hilarity of the bossom buddies screwing up another press conference and making announcements before final deals have been cut . . .

“There’s no deal,” Haugo said Wednesday from his home in Arizona. “No money has been exchanged and there’s no signed agreement. This was a case of the mayor and (development director) Darrin Smith overdriving their mouths.”

Well that mayor’s mouth has been on overdrive ever since he decided to run for mayor, I’m pretty sure it runs off a Hemi 440. His mouth was certainly in overdrive Tuesday night when he decided to get up from his chair and chew Kenny Anderson’s ass for not ‘controlling’ the city council discussion at the meeting, but you won’t see that tidbit on SIRE since somehow it mysteriously got edited from the video. Rex Rolfing likes to remind people to remove their hats during public testimony because of ‘decorum’. If we want real decorum at our council meetings maybe we should remove the mayor?

I digress.

Back to the $40 million dollar project that may or may not happen. I asked a committee member with the RFP the other day what proposals are being thrown out there (and these are very, very preliminary)

-The project would request $10 million from the city (taxpayers) to build the ramp. The city would own the ramp, and lease space to the hotel and apartment dwellers.

-The project may also be asking for a TIF.

I say one or the other, but not both. I like the idea that the city would own the ramp, but with such a large project ($40 million total) I don’t like the use of a TIF. I would want the remaining $30 million in private investment to be paying the FULL property taxes when the project is completed so that we can recoup our parking ramp expense. I would also be willing to throw in FREE use of the landfill if the other buildings need to be demolished.

I don’t thinking building a ‘boutique’ hotel is a wise choice of TIF money, and since the city would be ponying up $10 million already, I think the gift giving should end there.

What will the downtown Sioux Falls ‘Banks’ project cost taxpayers?

While the media and the city have been busy showing us pretty pictures of the project, there are still a lot of unanswered questions.

What we do know is that the project is projected to cost around $40 million, it will have 600 public parking spaces, it will have a partially public rooftop park and it will require demolition of a few buildings to construct.

Questions,

-What kind of reimbursement will the city receive for the façade it paid for in 2007 for the building that is being demolished?

-How much money will taxpayers be putting towards the project? Will it be a loan, a TIF or a one-time payment (rumored number is $10 million)? Where will the money come from? Reserves? Bonds?

-If we are giving 25% towards the funding of the project, will the city actually OWN 25% of the building (for instance, the parking ramp portion)

-How will property taxes be assessed if we own a portion of the building? Or will we lease? And if we are leasing, why would we help fund the project?

-What is the real economic impact of the project? Besides the few hundred temp jobs it will provide in construction, how many permanent jobs? Or mostly low-paying hospitality part-time jobs?

Too often we find the ‘Devil is in the Details’. Remember the supposed $4 million dollar TIF Dunham requested for the COSTCO project that quickly got reduced after all the facts came out? If we move forward on this project like our fine mayor, planning department and community development departments usually do in a non-transparent manner – the taxpayers of the city may be getting the shaft at the end of the day.

I encourage the city council to study the options closely, and make sure the taxpayers of this town are not once again handing out money and tax breaks like candy to the developer welfare class of our community.

 

This is how we do ‘business’ in Sioux Falls

The Argus Leader reported today that the RFP for the mixed use parking ramp downtown was awarded to a joint venture which includes Ramkota Companies and Bender Real Estate.

These companies are lead by Robert Thimjon and Michael Bender.

Both men have donated in the past to the mayor and his campaigns;

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Nothing nefarious here, it is perfectly legal in South Dakota to ‘pay to play’. A certain Ad Agency in Sioux Falls has been doing it for years with the state.

So it is NO surprise who got awarded the RFP. The bigger question here is if any city officials or family members are or will be investing in the project? A good question to ask at the presser tomorrow.

Mayor Huether in a Huff?

I found this on Steve Hildebrand’s FB page;

I bet I’ve spoken to more than 100 people about this project – all who believe it’s important and a great step forward for downtown and Sioux Falls in general.

I’ve also spoken directly to Mayor Huether about it. He’s absolutely got his heels dug in on this one and says “they will not get a TIF.” When I asked him why he was opposed to a TIF for this $29 million project with tremendous economic impact for our city, he literally stormed off in a huff. Really? Seems like when a taxpayer asks a public official to explain their position, the could do just that – without getting all uptight.

For the life of me, I can understand why Mayor Huether would oppose this important project for Sioux Falls. If you believe this project is important, please call, email or talk to Mayor Huether in person. Please also share your thoughts with members of the SF Planning Commission and the City Council. We need their support to make this project possible.

 

For the record, I am against this TIF, but I am bias, I don’t believe in TIF’s. Over the past two years we have had record building permits, and NO TIF’s were granted. Are they needed? Or can private enterprise roll on it’s own? Playing the Devil’s advocate, let’s say I am for TIF’s, the biggest issue with this one is it is too large. I think if they scaled it back by 75% they would have a better chance.

As for the mayor, he doesn’t play well with others, and that is becoming more evident.