Breaking down the $20 million
Tomorrow the council will meet to begin "deliberations" on Mayor White's plan to pay over three times the appraised value for some land downtown, plus engineer some land swaps for the owners of the Dynamo. Er, maybe for the owners of the Dynamo; it's not as if they've actually committed to anything. I've been digging through the agenda, which has two items to execute the deal, that I will summarize. (And let me add that this week's agenda has a number of other interesting tidbits, which I just don't have time to get into. Doubling the size of the bomb squad? Hmmmm.)
Agenda Item 15: $15,942,042 out of the Reimbursement of Equipment/Projects Fund to pay for five blocks of land on the east side of Hwy.59; also the abandonment and sale of Jackson Street from Capitol to Rusk. Plenty has already been said about the disparity between the assessment and the asking price for this land. What I find equally odd is the street abandonment -- this is not the previously discussed land swap, which has to do with the sixth block making up the site. Jackson Street is four blocks away, on the other side of Hwy 59. So what is the point of this? Well lookie-see to whom it's going: "..to the abutting owners of Block 100, Macey Family Properties II, Ltd." If this is being "sold," exactly what is the city's asking price? And why isn't it subtracted from the purchase cost of the other five blocks? Supposedly, it is, but nowhere in the ordinance is the city's land assigned any valuation, or subtracted from the purchase cost.
Parcels QY7-015, QY7-016, QY7-017, QY7-018A, QY7-018B, QY7-019 (Fee).. . . . . . . . . . . . $15,442,042 .00
Estimated demolition costs. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .$400,000.00
Estimated closing costs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . .$100,000.00
TOTAL CONSIDERATION, DEMOLITION COSTS, AND CLOSING COSTS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $15,942,042.00
Perhaps someone can do some back-of-the-envelope calculations using HCAD records and determine how much off the original asking price we got, at $49.25 per square foot (taken from the agenda item)?
So why is the city handing over a street to Macey that has nothing to do with the stadium?
The abutting property owners plan to assemble the property being abandoned and sold into their abutting property to create a contiguous site for development.
So not only is the city buying land from former Council Member Macey at over three times the assessed value, we are giving him a street for his profit, too! And it just keeps getting better. Remember, I said they hadn't committed to anything. From the attachments: a letter to council members, et al. that includes the following informative Q&A:
Has there been some agreement with the Dynamo to locate on this site?
No. The Dynamo have been consulted in connection with its site selection process, which has been extensive and thorough. So have other potential users, such as TSU. There have been many criteria which would make the East Downtown site suitable for a sports venue or other economic
development activities . Those advantages include proximity to a major employment center; proximity to the expanded rail service; availability of parking; and a central location in relation to residential population centers .
So the Dynamo haven't agreed to use the practice facility, and they haven't agreed to use this site. Amazing how trusting Hizzoner is. This is far from the only stunner in this letter, but the full text is too long to include here. I hope to post it later.
Then there's Item 15A, the sixth block involving the previously mentioned land swap. It's another doozy. The city is selling a tract known as Block 193 (aka 319 St.Emanuel) to a company known as 800 Dowling LP, in return for $250,000 and block 220. Then we're turning around and leasing Block 193 back for five years + three one-year extensions, for an amount that escalates from $175,000/yr. to $250,000 per year! Up to $150,000 in closing costs will also be paid for by the city. All money is coming from Fund 8300: Water and Sewer Operations. Yes, that's right, Mayor White is not just grabbing money out of Public Works Equipment and Projects fund to buy land -- now he's tapping money that comes from people's water and sewer bills! (Make no mistake. Fund 8300 is a precise identifier: that's where all revenue from the water/sewer bills goes.)
Is anyone else's jaw on the floor yet? Pick it up, we're not through yet. Why, you ask, is the city going to the expense of leasing back the very property it's selling? Because the equipment and office supply warehouse for the entire city sits on that site!
And the kicker is, despite all that, not one person is signed up tomorrow to discuss it. But two citizens are signed up, to discuss that horrible travesty of private development and the free market, a privately funded condo tower, unwanted by its neighbors. Maybe a certain local news organization didn't think this was the most important thing we needed to know about the Dynamo today:
Boxer De La Hoya likely to be part of Dynamo ownership. Nothing like news of a popular sports celebrity becoming involved (the day before a critical vote) to help things along.
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