|The general area under discussion.|
The Latham developer First Columbia LLC wants to create a restaurant/banquet space along with a 120-room Courtyard by Marriott hotel, upscale apartments, retail stores, and a 650-space parking garage on five River Street parcels.
That plan was announced months ago, then fell off the public radar in this city of grandiose plans but little follow-through. (See Monument Square redevelopment). But, it appears to be regaining momentum now that the company has formally submitted plans for the project to the city's Industrial Development Agency.
The projected $60 million development would be created in the area of the Hedley Park Place building -- home to, among other entities, City Hall -- and the Flanigan Square building, both former warehouses converted to other commercial use by First Columbia. The parking garage would be built on the current parking lot opposite the Hedley building.
The proposal would encompass some land owned by the developer and some owned by the city being transferred to First Columbia along with the usual armored car full of tax breaks and other taxpayer-funded goodies First Columbia is seeking.
The developer wants the IDA to freeze the property taxes on the parking lot as well as on its Hedley Park Place and Flanigan Square buildings and four other parcels -- until around the year 2046. Taxes on those parcels accounted for close to a half-million dollars in revenue to the city last year.
"We recognize that 30 years is a long period of time" to request a PILOT -- payment-in-lieu-of-taxes, "but it reflects the unique nature of the traditionally public infrastructure being constructed privately in this instance," First Columbia President Kevin Bette wrote in a November 17 letter to Bill Dunne. Dunne is both executive director of the IDA and the city's director of planning and economic development.
There has been one meeting of the IDA since the date of that letter, and the project was not discussed. The agenda for the scheduled December 11 meeting has not yet been made public.
Whether the magnitude of the breaks is approved may well rest on Patrick Madden's pending inauguration as the new mayor, and the city's continuing financial difficulties most recently shown in a heated debate over the 2016 budget, just passed on Monday night after weeks of wrangling. It's a budget Madden, who will inherit it, derisively termed "a wing and a prayer."