The Democrat and Chronicle reports taxpayers will shell out $30.7 million of the $100 million project featuring apartments, a hotel and retail. That includes a $20 million federal loan that will be paid back primarily with the development’s property taxes. It also includes infrastructure improvements and a $4 million state grant the project suddenly “needs.”
I’ve long questioned why taxpayers are paying one-third of the cost of College Town. While I believe this will be an incredible addition to the corridor, this is not an economically distressed area. It’s going on prime real estate in a nice neighborhood right next to a rich college. Fifty-percent of the retail space is already leased, meaning there’s already demand for this site. This is not the kind of development that needed such an extensive push from government.
Now that the city is so deep into this project, it should have demanded a transit facility. Plans call for a 1,525-space parking garage. Meanwhile, an $8.3 million transit center with 10 to 12 bus bays was scuttled because it didn’t “fit the developers’ needs,” according to RGRTA’s CEO.
This is a travesty. The U of R is the area’s largest employer and taxpayers are footing the bill to bring ever more cars to the area without any kind of plan to encourage public transit. We’re paying to install a new exit on Route 390, expand Mt. Hope Ave. and subsidize parking for students and staff at College Town. None of these measures will make traffic flow more smoothly. They’ll just bring more and more cars. The least the city and the college could have done was install some bus bays.
U of R President Joel Seligman called the approval of the $20 million federal loan for the College Town project a “red letter day” for the city because of its economic development potential. The D&C reports:
The economic benefits of College Town, according to its developers, include 985 construction jobs and 582 permanent jobs. College Town is projected to have an annual payroll of $26.4 million, with 275 of those jobs being in retail businesses and 250 being office jobs, some with UR. Annual sales would be an estimated $30.2 million.
The U of R jobs likely would have been created anyway. If you divide the 275 retail jobs by $30.7 million, that’s $111,636 tax dollars per job. It will take a retail worker four years to make up the money. Subsidizing retail jobs is simply bad for taxpayers.
If we’re going to essentially pay developers to build in our city, we should focus on projects that generate immediate property tax revenue, create well-paying jobs and encourage public transit. This one fails on all counts.
Links of the Day:
– The Wall Street Journal reports Antonio Perez clung to inkjet printers in the early days of the company’s bankruptcy.
– Crime-ridden Camden, N.J. is dissolving its police force…in a bid to fight crime.
– Broadcasting car chases live on TV is nothing but “mayhem porn” and has no news value.