Over a year ago, Madison's city commission and Lake Area Improvement Corporation played a remarkable downtown development shell game, booting Rosebud Manufacturing out of downtown to the industrial park on the edge of town, then arranging a deal with the Interlakes Community Action Program to build a new headquarters on the old Rosebud property. Jon Hunter thought these moves were great; I asked whether ICAP's move was really the best we could do for downtown development;—more like downtown maintenance, since we're not really adding any new business.
Agree or disagree, we're all still waiting for development to happen. ICAP and the city negotiated a $350K purchase price for the half-block Rosebud vacated on Van Eps Avenue. Around the beginning of 2009, ICAP paid $5000 to secure a six-month exclusive purchase option. Mid-year, ICAP extended the option for another six months, for another $5K.
Monday ICAP and the city commission will consider another six-month, $5K option extension.
Read the purchase agreement in the January 11 city commission agenda packet. It says "Time is hereby declared to be of the essence in this Option." ICAP and the city's dawdling suggest the contrary.
ICAP is essentially getting to mortgage an entire half-block of downtown commercial property for $833 a month. If the city approves the latest option extension, they'll have kept this developable property off the market for 18 months. We're collecting no property tax from it now, and ICAP expects the property to be tax exempt when (if) it finally purchases the land. We're sitting on a big vacant lot instead of creating a competitive economic opportunity.
As I've said before, ICAP does fine work. I have no beef with them. But Madison has hundreds of unemployed and underemployed (read Gehl) workers. We are 725 jobs short of our five-year goal to create 400 jobs by 2012. If I'm an aggressive economic developer, I say to ICAP, "Poop or get off the pot." I could put that land on the market, find a commercial developer who could put up something like Randy Schaefer's strip mall, and fill it with ten businesses that would create jobs, sales tax, and property tax.
Of course, I'm not an aggressive economic developer. Neither, apparently, is the city of Madison.
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