Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Standard Operating Sleaze

On Friday the last theater at Trolley Square closes. ScanlonKemperBard, the mall's owner, claims that was part of the plan from the start. The Trib can find no sign that was ever part of the plan. I'll go farther: The developer is lying. That may have always been part of the developer's plan, but it was never publicly voiced. To show just how serious a stealth mode SKB was operating in, just last week there was still a help wanted sign on the movie marquee. I'll miss the art film venue, but I've always seen that the theater wasn't supporting itself, so I can understand the business decision. What bothers me is what else SKB may be hiding and why no one is asking about it.

Meanwhile in Holladay, General Growth Properties, which is redeveloping the Cottonwood Mall, is successfully holding the city and school district ransom until it gets a pile of tax dollars to pay for the project. The threat is that GGP will simply take its ball and go home, leaving Holladay with the biggest derelict building in the state at its core. And the city is shocked, SHOCKED to have this happen, even though it happens every time (The school district is in a better position to claim ignorance because schools in Utah are statutorily excluded from the development process, which also helps explain school overcrowding.).

It's long past time for local governments to grow up, folks. If a city wants a big development so it can pretend to be a big person, it needs to do big person work. That includes nailing the developer down on what the plan really is, however much it may seem like nailing Jello to a wall. It includes getting a decent audit of the project financials up front to make some kind of reasoned determination of economic viability. And it means expecting the developer to come begging for public funds and deciding how to address it from the start.


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