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Friday, October 05, 2007

Does Old = Blight?

Longmont City Council voted this week to spend $6,000 on a study of the Twin Peaks Mall to determine if it meets at least 4 of 11 metrics for blight. This would make the area qualified for tax-financed redevelopment. The new property owner is definitely psyched about that potential.

Any chance they will not find blight? I haven't been in that mall since early this year, and it is nothing special, however I don't recall anything blatant enough to consider the whole area that run down. But my impression doesn't mean anything; just skip to the urban renewal designation and say it now: we want a better performing economic development here, we're willing to fund current improvements off of future sales. Period. The blight designation is a semantic step, we all know where this is going.

What's more interesting is that Longmont declared the entire city an Urban Renewal Authority earlier this year, as opposed to, for example, Louisville's downtown/Hwy 42 revitalization district which has more limited boundaries (with its own interesting gerrymandering...) . So Longmont City Council acts as the Urban Renewal Authority Board and takes taxes from the entire city to fund projects in specific places.

Actually seems to make the most sense practically, so long as you agree with the mindset of the sitting Council.

7 comments:

Colorado Russ said...

I am actually surprised that the council would approve this.
The mall was just purchased by Panattoni Development Co., who certainly knew what they were buying.
(Panattoni is the entity which built the development on SR119 between Main St. and the St. Vrain River in Longmont, which includes Lowes, Staples, and Best Buy.)
I realize that malls have to "redevelop" themselves every few years to stay viable--look at what happened to the Boulder Crossroads mall.
But mall owners already know that, and should assume all of the financial risk for their investment decisions.
Since governments are giving free money to unworthy recipients everywhere these days, I can't blame Panattoni for asking.
But I'd have to call it "corporate welfare" at it's worse in this case.

Doktorbombay said...

You're not really surprised, are you Colorado Russ?

What surprises me is that Panattoni didn't try to make their purchase contingent on such a designation. You get more freebies from city government when you threathen them with lost sales tax opportunities.

The location is so prime there is absolutely no need to provide tax dollars for redevelopment.

Longmont has such a wide base for retail sales tax now that the mall is not as important to their overall revenue stream as it was 10 years ago. And, sales have dropped quite a bit at the mall. So, no huge hit to total city retail sales tax even if the mall closed down completely. (Not at all in Pannatoni's plans.) Most of those dollars would remain in Longmont.

Pannatoni got an excellent look at the potential of Longmont during their development of the sites east of Main on 119. If they had a difficult time finding tenants, they wouldn't be interested in Twin Peaks. Instead, they had no problem signing tenants.

Tax funded redevelopment is absolutely unnecessary here.

Voters in Longmont better quickly be asking Council candidates what they think of this.

KERRY BENSMAN said...

If the is reason for the Urban Rewneal Authority to "step" in, the entire resources of the URA are ripe for the plucking, not just what pertains to the Twin Peaks Mall. So the developers know there is a big pot of gold at the end of the blight rainbow.

Alex Schatz said...

There was quite a furor there for about a year after the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision to allow private-to-private development flips facilitated by a city. Colorado supposedly strengthened its "public use" criteria for eminent domain and urban renewal, but, from what I can tell, it's pretty much still a snap of the fingers to declare blight on any piece of property.

There are definitely some private parties that like to develop in urban renewal zones. The urban renewal process is advantageous in many situations. For example, it is not always a bad idea to transfer properties between private parties, to facilitate a new key land use. When you see real blight, it's not hard to justify this.

I have no idea how blighted one could call the Twin Peaks Mall. If the City of Longmont can "renew" it, make it more profitable, and there's no one getting burned, is it necessarily a bad idea?

Doktorbombay said...

Yes, in this case it's a bad idea. Since the private to private "flip" has already happened, any tax funded redevelopment is simply corporate welfare, as stated above.

Panattoni didn't buy the mall with the condition it would be designated as blight and, thus, qualify for tax help. They bought it with no such thing in mind. They just saw the opportunity for what it was, without city involvement.

So, the one's who get burned are the taxpayers, by needless government funding.

Anonymous said...

The current mayor and city council policies are directly responsible for the current run down state of the city. I find the current decision ironic.

KERRY BENSMAN said...

D-B,

Your words:

"Panattoni didn't buy the mall with the condition it would be designated as blight and, thus, qualify for tax help. They bought it with no such thing in mind. They just saw the opportunity for what it was, without city involvement."

Is there any way of really knowing what expectations were set with the city prior to the purchase? I find it odd that the purchase was in late August and the study gets approved within 60 days afterwards. Kind of fast for government work I would think.

So if I maintained that the new owners bought the property precisely because of movement towards a URA, how would one refute that? one has to believe the new owners did a full investigation of the structures and whether blight conditions existed.

City halls have back rooms these days, just not filled with cigar smoke.