Tuesday, May 06, 2008

TIF for TAT Saga Continues

Tucson, Arizona. Remember, in the world of cloth, it's about absorbing, like the horror movie The Blob. After showing the Congress Street Stakeholders the door, cloth meisters SALC and TREO "took over" the existing non-profit Tucson Downtown Alliance to create the Downtown Tucson Partnership. Why? The cloth are like the Borg. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile. Recalcitrant Executive Directors (an idiot running a training institute comes to mind) get their throats cut if they don’t bow to the cloth. Naturally the "new" group needs a new boss at twice the salary.

June 27, 2007: It’s time for action on Rio Nuevo, new Downtown coalition agrees (Andrea Kelly, AZ Daily Star) The newest group of Downtown problem solvers already seems to be willing to accept a mantra of less talk, more action.

"We want to focus on action, not discussion," said Steve Lynn, Tucson Electric Power VP.

"We need to reinforce the consensus that revitalization of Downtown is essential to all of Southern Arizona," said Larry Hecker, who represents TREO on the partnership board
(cloth distilled).

July 9, 2007: 25 DOWNTOWN PROJECTS show promise for Rio Nuevo (Teya Vitu, Tucson Citizen) Teya’s article lists 25 projects under the above headline, correctly noting what the dismissed stakeholders had insisted, "What’s missing is retail, retail, retail." The semantics must be distinguished. He is talking about 25 downtown projects, not Rio Nuevo projects. Cloth meisters have this credit taking down to an art. If Raytheon gets a missile contract Roach holds a press conference.

COMPLETE: We’ve already noted the four RN projects now complete: 1) The TCC Box Office, 2) The Rialto Theater, 3) The Fox Theater, and 4) El Presidio de Tucson.

Regarding the others, wait a minute. 5-Academy Lofts, 6-Ice House Lofts, and 7-Armory Park Del Sol are housing projects (cannot use TIF) outside the RN district. Projects 8-Pennington St. Garage and 9- The Home Depot restoration were already happening anyway and not RN. Projects 10, 11, and 12 are also housing outside RN district and not TIF funded.

UNDER CONSTRUCTION: 13) more homes, but RN sold land and built the Avenida del Convento street, 14) Tucson Origins (later), 15) the Post (oh, God), 16) Depot Plaza MLK Apartments (not RN or TIF).

PENDING: 19) Presidio Terrace (Peggy Noonan is suing the city), 20) The Rialto Block Project (a good project, but not RN managed (one reason it’s good)), 21) the Santa Rita Hotel (project dead), 22) the TCC hotel (oh, God, part II), 23) the arena (oh, Jesus), 24) arena extras (mother of Mary), and 25) the 14.3 acres by Tucson Origins.

September 3, 2007: Pima needs good companies and high paying jobs (AZ Daily Star) Over one out of five Arizonans have no health insurance. TREO comments that good companies are looking to relocate where there are high skilled workers. (Would someone please pass the Dramamine?)

September 3, 2007: Downtown hotel, condo, pub project moves ahead (Teya Vitu – Tucson Citizen) El Mirador will feature 220 rooms, 150 condos, and the Nimbus Brewery.

September 8, 2007: The city gets four hotel proposals (#22) (O’Dell, AZ Star). A Hilton (709 rooms @ $166M), Marriott (450 rooms @ $101M with follow up 300 more @ $110M), Hyatt (700 rooms @ $188M) and a Sheraton (708 rooms @$203M).

September 23, 2007: Five who will pick hotel face big decision (Rob O’Dell – AZ Daily Star) The five distinguished suits to select the hotel are 1) Kendall Bert (Wesley Mouch himself, the genius who thought SAIAT managed property), 2) Randi Dorman, real estate developer with experience branding Crest toothpaste, Charmin toilet paper, and Old Spice cologne. 3) Chris Sheafe, representing the Citizen’s Advisory Committee, and 4) Karen Valdez, representing the Business Development Finance Corp., and 5) Jonathon Walker of the TCC.

November 4, 2007: The Arizona Daily Star’s Rob O’Dell runs the Albuquerque comparison pieces each pointing out all that Albuquerque has done that Tucson has not. The next day O’Dell runs a piece on Albuquerque's many accomplishments.

November 8, 2007: City kills deal for downtown condos (Teya Vitu – Tucson Citizen) RN manager hands Peggy Noonan her hat. She is suing the city.

November 8, 2007: The five select the $203 M 707 room Sheraton to be the downtown hotel to pair with the remodeled TCC. An additional $45 M is thrown in to buy the Hotel Arizona from Humberto Lopez and seven acres of downtown land from Allan Norville.

November 18, 2007: Council expected to ok $300 M hotels deal (Rob O’Dell – AZ Daily Star) The Sheraton ($203M), Buy and renovate Hotel Arizona ($28M+$47M) and buy Norville's seven acres ($17M).

November 26, 2007: Marketing Exec sees a lack of ‘wow’ factor in Rio Neuvo (Teya Vitu – Tucson Citizen) Margaret Pulles, deputy director of the Smithsonian’s Affiliations Program, looks at what is going on and declares, "You’re going to have a ghost town if you don’t change your frame of thinking."

After landing the city contract to brand Rio Nuevo, Margaret declares that she didn’t see much to brand, i.e. where are the clothes on this emperor? (Remember Bablove Ridgewood Workgroup? Lack of clothing didn't stop them from taking a quarter mill or so to make a yellow streak.) Margaret's "Where's the beef?" remark infuriated Rio Neuvo Director Greg Shelko. He declared, "I don’t think she knows what we’ve been doing the past two years."

I've never met Greg or Hecker, but the cloth alarm is screaming. I have met Snell. I speak with confidence that if you asked these three to team up and bake a pizza, they'd drop fifty grand on an oven study, twelve grand to fly to Greece and watch them, $40 grand to consultants to study 1) dough, 2) sauce, 3) ingredients, 4) cheese, 5) baking temps, 6) pizza size, and 7) crust thickness policies. After extensive meetings and interviews, Snell would drop 75 grand for glossy pamphlets no one will read because everyone's already left for Pizza Hut, where it takes 20 minutes and costs about twelve bucks.

January 10, 2008: Glen Lyons, the new director of the Downtown Tucson Partnership, arrives. Salary $100-$120K. Now things will really start to happen.

January 17, 2008: Another downtown Tucson business is shut down (Rob O’Dell, AZ Daily Star). "Simply Convenient" packs it in.

February 13, 2008 New downtown exec ready to prowl at night (Teya Vitu, Tucson Citizen) Lot 175 (the lot across from El Charro) is mentioned as a hot priority. Lyons will change the lack of progress.

February 22, 2008: Developer proposes hotel-condo conversion for Rio Nuevo (Rob O’Dell, AZ Daily Star) Ahh, the Post. Bourn got premium land for $100. Not sure whether to cry foul, given the full picture. They sure tore a bunch of stuff down in a hurry. Suffice to say, what’s there now? Not to worry, construction starts next week.

April 5, 2008: Thank business for progress downtown (Tucson Citizen) We have cause for optimism, all. Thank all the suits for encouraging business to take the lead and forge ahead with downtown development.

April 8, 2008: One more Downtown project teeters on the brink (Arizona Daily Star) Now we hear the arena is going to cost $200M, not $130M. City arena cost projection rises to $166M (Teya Vitu, Tucson Citizen) plus “extra expenses.”

Now, of course, we’re not sure we have the $28M for the purchase of Norville’s seven acres or the purchase ($17M) and upgrade ($47M) of the Hotel Arizona. In fact, do we have the money for the Sheraton?

April 10, 2008: Rio Nuevo panel quietly folds tent (Rob O’Dell – AZ Daily Star) The Citizen’s Advisory panel regarding Rio Nuevo, like the Stakeholders before them, disbands, calling themselves irrelevant. Developer Richard Studwell asserts the group had been rendered irrelevant for more than a year and should be terminated.

May 4, 2008: City likely to scrap tortoise arena plan (Rob O’Dell, AZ Daily Star) Faced with spiraling costs, the City Council is set to abandon the arena's tortoise design and its location along the Interstate 10 frontage road. Not to worry, the development won’t cause delays in the construction of the new 700+ room Sheraton and the purchase and upgrade of the Hotel Arizona.

May 5, 2008: Downtown businesses offered fix up grants to help older buildings to retain some of their historic character. The first phase of the program will give up to eight applicants $7,500. That's right, 75 hundred dollars. Oh, wait. That's not to do anything. That's just to study what they might do.

I swear I am not making this up.


Blogger Trent said...

Just for the record, April 9, 2007

even a politician could have seen this disaster coming.

how's that for noticing the cloth before it was cool?

5/06/2008 7:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ha! Ha!

Your pizza metaphor just says it all. What a bunch of morons playing with themselves in the sandbox.

The "Certified ANUS" post is priceless and perfect.

5/06/2008 1:22 PM  
Blogger Travis said...

There's one even earlier on the chronology of clothspeak here. I may not have all the specifics on this, but I'm sure others on the blog can fill in the details.

Way back when (I believe this was pre-Walkup), the city needed to make some improvements that affected Tom Philabaum's glass studio, which is on the edge of downtown. In return, they promised him a building or improvements of some sort. (This is where my details are hazy.)

Philabaum came calling this chit in near the time Rio Nuevo was getting its start. The city made good by giving him an old building on 18th St. to house the Sonoran Glass Art Academy, which teaches glassblowing.

But the city also slapped a banner on the building declaring it a successful part of Rio Nuevo.

It's NOT part of Rio Nuevo for two reasons:

1) All aspects of the deal were closed BEFORE Rio Nuevo existed. Politically, they just wanted to have something to show.

2) The building technically sits just outside of the declared Rio Nuevo area. (As in, just across the street.)

I'm a fan of art, particularly the public kind. It moves the spirit and the intellect. I also believe that arts and business go hand in hand. A thriving arts community is a sign of a vibrant community and economy. (Be careful not to put the art cart before the economic horse or x4mr will ridicule you.)

Plus, you have to pay respect to someone like Philabaum, who has long made a business successful in downtown DESPITE the city's bumblings. Talent AND business savvy. Rare in an artist. Plus, he's to be lauded for devoting expertise, time, and resources to this thing.

5/06/2008 3:57 PM  
Blogger TexPatriate said...

Disclaimer: As a non-Tucsonian, I have to ask the obvious question: how is it that only X4mr seems to have eyeballs (or just plain balls) to make these observations so clearly ? This question is NOT meant to place blame or point fingers at the readers of this blog -- I'm just mystified at what the average Tucsonian thinks of all this.

Perhaps it is the clarity with which he writes and connects the dots, but it seems to me that some of these boondoggles should begin with a capital "B". How is it exactly that this Snell person continues to have money in his kitty when he demonstrates exactly NOTHING done ?

Lest folks think I am some dilettante (which, I suppose, in this venue I certainly am) -- I took a 15 minute tram ride this morning to work. During those 15 minutes, I thought about what I think constitues a vibrant and thriving downtown.

Here's my list:
Food - breakfast to late night
Shops - bookstores, particularly (used or new makes no difference)
Art - co-op galleries and/or class facilities
Housing - loft space w/ retail below
Drinks - coffee to alcohol
School/Educational facilities -- university satellite campuses/ charter schools/ magnet schools / trade schools (I'm sorry, X4mr -- I really don't mean this to be salt in a wound, I swear)
Fitness - small boutique gyms with specialty classes (yoga, kickboxing, whatever that Israeli kick-yo-ass self-defense course is)
Day Spa / Salon
Grocery store / convenience store
Card / gift shop
Postal annex / copy & mail place
Small bank or two

How damn difficult can it be to use a Lego approach and slot in these businesses in downtown Tucson ? None of them take a significant investment, save possibly the housing (and even that can be accomplished in phases / floors).

Can I have my five million in consulting fees now ? Please ?
I promiseI'll use it wisely.
I might even use it to back up my big fat mouth.

5/06/2008 6:06 PM  
Blogger The Navigator said...

Texpatriote, I would say it is more balls that eyeballs that are involved. I'm not particularly connected, but I've asked around and it is definitely the emperor / clothes thing.

I know someone who knows someone who works for one of the companies that support TREO, and I asked him to ask why they do it. The answer was pure political correctness. Apparently the person said something like, "We know they are worthless, but we need to be included and everything and it would look bad if we didn't give them anything.

x4mr, the bit about the pizza is hilarious. I had forgotten all about that certified ANUS post. What a riot.

You should be glad they booted you the hell out of there. You are everything they are not.

5/07/2008 1:37 PM  
Anonymous Scarlett Letter said...

Tex -- the "average Tucsonan" drives from the Northwest Side to Raytheon, works 9-10 hours, gets back on I-10 and drives home, never giving the city much of a thought. He/she will return to (fill in the blank) when he/she retires.

5/07/2008 8:04 PM  

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