Soccer stadium land could cost $20 million! (updated)

Remember how Mayor White has said time and again that a new soccer stadium would not require the city to contribute public funding?

Well, today Carolyn Feibel reports that through some kind of government financing-magic, Mayor White will have to find up to $20 million for the stadium land:

The city could spend up to $20 million to buy six downtown blocks for a Dynamo soccer stadium, and it remains unclear if the team would reimburse the costs.

The blocks that officials are eyeing just east of U.S. 59 in the warehouse district have a total appraised value of about $5.1 million, according to the Harris County Appraisal District, or HCAD.

But local property owners who want to sell have been asking for triple or even quadruple the appraised values, as the area is seen as "hot" for development.

"I do not believe the appraisal value reflects even half of the market value," said Dan Nip, chairman of the East Downtown Redevelopment Authority. HCAD has appraised properties in the six-block area at $12.50 per square foot.

But asking prices by nearby owners have been $30 or more per square foot, Nip said. "If you have the whole square block, you can get as high as $40-$50."

City officials have not said how they would pay for the property. Mayor Bill White said he doesn't want public funds used for the actual stadium construction.

The property is bounded by Texas, Dowling, Walker and Hutchins streets.

Four of the six blocks are owned by former Councilman Louis Macey, who represented District C from 1976 to 1979. A fifth block is owned by HBS Warehouse Associates, and the sixth block is subdivided between two other owners, according to HCAD records.

But wait! There's more:

"It's important for us economically to have the Dynamo here because if we don't have a stadium for them, they're going to go somewhere else," said Councilman Peter Brown.

But Brown said the city should insist on plans for mixed-use development and shared parking around the future stadium.

"We built George R. Brown and Minute Maid Park without a master plan; we just sort of let development happen around them," Brown said. "This is an opportunity to take a more mature approach ... it's how you buffer the adverse impacts."

No concern for the "adverse impacts" on taxpayers' wallets, of course. Councilman Brown doesn't have to worry about such things.

And we all know a "more mature approach" involves lots and lots of money. Gigantic sums of public investment. No wonder Mayor White's position is, "we do not plan to provide any answers to specific questions."

MORE: I've been thinking about the evolution of Mayor White's language. In early stories, we'd get a quote from the mayor using the words, "no public funding." But as time went on, we'd see stories that included the words, "no property taxes." And now Cory Crow notes the fine-tuned wording in today's story:

Mayor Bill White said he doesn't want public funds used for the actual stadium construction.

A differentiation between land and stadium? There are millions of dollars of wiggle room in that language!

BLOGVERSATION: Lose an Eye, It's a Sport, Houston's Clear Thinkers.

Posted by Anne Linehan @ 01/14/08 05:09 AM | Print |

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