Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Pineapple in the News

Kevin McQuaid's article in yesterdays SHT covers the Pineapple Square potential giveaway of public land and public dollars. As we have commented in previous posts, we think this giveaway would be in the range of $18,000,000.

While some may think upscale retail shopping in downtown Sarasota is worth this price, we do not. Sarasota has too many other priorities to give one retail developer this much money. None of the other retail centers in Sarasota has been "blessed" with this kind of handout and we don't see why Pineapple Square should set a new gold standard.

Kevin McQuaid says:
As part of its plan for Pineapple Square, a roughly $200 million project that would add between 30 and 40 shops, as well as 200 residences and more than 1,000 parking spaces, Isaac has asked the city for a sizeable amount of "cooperation."

Specifically, the city's cooperation would involve providing a one-acre, city-owned lot on State Street downtown that an appraiser has valued at $8 million, along with roughly $7.6 million to construct 350 public parking places within a Pineapple Square garage.

The developer also is asking the city to vacate -- read: close -- a swath of State Street from Lemon to Pineapple avenues. City officials say they have no idea what that largely unprecedented move would be worth.

But when city planners, in early September, sought financial and other data from Isaac related to its request, the developer balked. Isaac Chief Executive John Simon also ignored city Redevelopment Specialist Karin Murphy's letter requesting information on Pineapple Square in early October, according to Sarasota documents.

We do not understand Mr. Simon's spin on the question of what he requires from the city.

He wants the State St parking lot, he wants a block of State St to be vacated and given to him and he wants $7,600,000 to build parking spaces in his building. His spin on this indicates that the State St lot is "encumbered" because the city requires 350 parking spaces. His spin also says if the city wants the 350 spaces the city needs to pay for them. He also says that the air rights consumed by these parking spaces are more valuable than the air rights above the street he wants vacated (he would say "if you bring that up [vacating the street] you will lose that argument [the air rights]").

One thing we do know is that we already have 137 parking spaces in the State St lot and 14 spaces on the block of State St. that Simon is asking to be vacated.

We certainly hope none of the commissioners get sucked into his spin when it comes time to evaluate the proposal. Lay out clearly what the city is being asked to contribute, find out from other retailers around the city (ie., St Armands) what they think of giving Pineapple Square this much public money so they get parking inside their building, then ask the citizens of Sarasota if this is worth it. Finally think about Sarasota's needs (as opposed to wants), how does this project fit with affordable housing, how does it help the Newtown redevelopment project, how does it help traffic congestion, how does concentrating this much parking in one building help the rest of downtown.

We can't hear the spinning and sucking sounds too loudly yet. We hope it stays that way.


Anonymous said...

Studies show that these "incentives" never really benefit the governments that give them. When will our city commissioners recognize that the citizens are not opposed to development per se? Instead, we are opposed to bad developments that take the city's assets and replace them with disastrous design.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand mr. Simon's argument that the State Street City parking lot is "encumbered"- and thus worth less than the $8 million appraisal value. The appraisor was requested to value the land based on the original RFP that was to be issued prior to Isaacs discussions. There were two numbers (if my memory serves me) that the appraisor established. The first was for an unencumbered parcel- without any city parking required on the site and one in which a potential developer could develop any way he/she wished. The second number was a valuation for the parcel that would include the construction of 350 public parking spaces- which was approximately $1.2 million less than the unencumbered $8 million number. My rather lengthy point is this: the developer is not putting the 350 public parking spaces on the City owned property- thus it is unencumbered and worth the $8 million number. Another point I would make is that the City's consideration of vacating State Street between Lemon and Pineapple does not have a value assigned to it- in other words the developer is getting this rather large swath of City property and the air rights for free!! I for one am not in favor of the precedent that looks likely to be set by the City Commission in this particular issue. Even if they do agree to this condition the City should establish a value for this and be included in the financial gain the developer will benefit from- the Isaacs and their representative are certainly squeezing us for every dime they can get out of us! City administration better be taking a very hard and sober look at what they are about to unleash on the City- it will be the equivalent of a 1200 lb elephant in our living room.