After holding a twice extended option for a year and a half, Inter-Lakes Community Action Program is finally laying down the cash to buy the old Rosebud property and put up its own building. Saturday's MDL (not online yet) gives a cheer for this economic development. I'm happy for ICAP... but Madison is losing big.
Let's check the numbers:
- On February 15, 2008, the Lake Area Imrpvoement Corporation bought Rosebud's downtown properties for $500,000 as part of its land shell game to lever Rosebud's undesirable manufacturing out of downtown and out to the edge of town to refill the shuttered Arctic Cat plant. (The LAIC has since sold a couple of the smaller Rosebud plots for $35,000 and $500.)
- On February 15, 2008, the City of Madison bought the main half block of the Rosebud property, across the street from City Hall, for $400,000.
- In December, 2008, the City of Madison approved a deal arranged by LAIC for ICAP to purchase the Rosebud half-block from the city for $350,000.
- ICAP didn't buy right away. ICAP paid $5000 for a six-month exclusive purchase option. ICAP extended that option twice, $5000 each time. Total paid so far: $15,000.
- The city commission will consider a purchase agreement Tuesday night that gives the land to ICAP for $135,000. Minus the option payments, the actual cash to change hands is $120,000.
- ICAP will kick in up to $10,000 for remediation costs—i.e., removing lead-impacted soil. If I'm reading the agreement correctly, ICAP will also share up to $5000 of the cost of soil testing done since this year March 31.
- The city will approve Tuesday a brownfields grant agreement with the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources that should put another $50,000 of federal money toward removing and replacing about 400 cubic yards of lead-impacted soil.
- The city still bears the cost of demolishing the Rosebud buildings. I don't see a cost estimate on that aspect of the project in the city agenda, but I image we could lower that cost with a Crazy Days sledgehammer contest....
I thought LAIC exec Dwaine Chapel once told me that the LAIC doesn't believe in handouts. I am at least pleased that they have changed their tune to benefit an organization that does good work like ICAP.
But subsidizing the community work of ICAP is the only justification our city fathers can offer for this project. The land swap and sweet deal certainly aren't economic development: we've only moved players around, not added any new ones. We're not increasing the tax rolls: ICAP is a non-profit. The only stretch by which we might offer an economic justification for this fire sale is that maybe, just maybe, ICAP was saying they were going to leave town if they didn't get this property cheap, and the LAIC and city thus acted to keep Madison from losing jobs.
Given this math from the city, we have a proposal. There is another derelict property in downtown Madison, the Masonic Temple, just crying for development. My wife and I and some friends are prepared to form a non-profit organization to acquire, renovate, and preserve the Masonic temple as a non-profit community cultural center hosting a wide variety of education, entertainment, tourism, and economic development projects.
The last purchase price for this architectural landmark was $46,000. If the LAIC and City of Madison would buy out the owner for that amount, then sell it to our non-profit group at a 66% loss... well, that's less than $16,000. I could line up that funding by the end of the month.
Arrange this Masonic temple buyout and transfer, city leaders, and you don't just keep jobs: you add cultural and economic activity where there currently is none. Essentially, arranging a deal analogous to the Rosebud-ICAP deal for the Masonic temple is a $30,000 investment that creates new economic activity. What say you, commissioners?