Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Public Financing? More "rooftop event spaces" and public (??) garages-- new Thornwood plans

Once again I am grateful for all the coverage of our City from both the Commercial Appeal and the Daily Memphian. I was able to sit at home last night and not even think about all the goings on at the BMA meeting. No, I don't really eat Snickers bars, (see my explanatory post about this blog from July of 2016), but I do have other interests outside of Germantown governance. It is much easier for me to provide a bit of insight rather than tackling every single fact.

Here is the video of last night's meeting:  

And here is the Commercial Appeal article:

Shouting, accustations, name-calling precede vote on Thornwood

The Daily Memphian: 

Germantown aldermen approve Thornwood amended outline plan

Alderman Massey was the only alderman who voted against Thornwood's revisions.

So far, at least, there seems to be no real "work" component of "Live, Work, and Play" of Smart Growth, unless you count the workers at the hotel. Will the workers be renting the apartments, providing walkability? Perhaps the next phase will add offices.

I have two takeaways on the proposed changes in the Thornwood plan:

1. On the bright side, I guess, is that the number of proposed apartment units in this plan is reduced from the former plan. It really isn't any secret that there are still many units (specifically 60 total available apartments listed today on its website) to select from at the Thornwood "residences".

Naturally the development does not want to overbuild its "luxury apartments", but, doing what developers do, they  keep building. The Commercial Appeal points out that Alderman Sanders supported the plan because it reduced the number of apartments planned by 114.

At the same time, the development added a Marriott branded hotel with 114 rooms. Presumably, the Hampton Inn at the development has been more profitable than the residences.

I do like the idea of increased tax revenues from hotels. Keep in mind, though, that much of this increased tax revenue goes to the bloated budget of GPAC. I love government support of the arts, mainly because I see the benefits from my past work experience, but there is something a bit too cozy about the City and its funding of GPAC. I would rather see our tax money for the arts go to a separate organization that solely supports artists in the area.

All that aside, Shelby County is seriously overbuilding not only apartments, but also hotels.  And in our City alone, there is one being built at Travure, and another planned at Carrefour. This article lists a lot of the plans:

Dozens of Hotels are in the works for Memphis Suburbs

Not sure if the BMA should be questioning developers' marketing projections, but this smells like a boom part of a boom and bust cycle. I also believe that the reduced business travel that has come about as a result of coronavirus may become a trend. Businesses will be able to ascertain which business travel is actually necessary. Much of the current business travel can be eliminated, due to the reduced costs and efficiencies of video conferencing. 

2. How many rooftop event spaces does Germantown need? 

REALLY? It isn't as if a rooftop here looks over anything but streets and shops and houses. Folks, this is not a rooftop event space with a view. Comparing our area with something like Mud Island is a  joke. I mean, the rooftop gardens planned at Carrefour and now at Thornwood make me a bit crazy. They don't even look out over the Wolf River.

But, of course, a rooftop garden is a "public" space, and of course a "public space" needs a public "parking garage." Why is that significant? BECAUSE THAT MAKES THEM ALL ELIGIBLE FOR TAX INCREMENT FINANCING. I am not sure how this could be telegraphed more clearly.

Next item on the agenda, perhaps AFTER the next election-- creation of areas of town where developers have their own little slush funds, comprised of the funds that otherwise would go to the general tax revenues. We are in the stage where the ordinary taxpayer here is like the frog in the water, who does not notice as the heat is being turned up slowly.

Look for tax incentives being requested by the developers of Carrefour and Thornwood. Do you want the City to support hotels and apartments and retail with tax increment financing? I don't. See my explanation of tax increment financing at this blog post Smart Growth and Tax Increment Financing. This is administered by an appointed "Industrial Development Board." Tax increment financing was approved by Germantown in early 2017 (reported in 
Germantown seeks to bolster development with TIF).

BMA, PLEASE stop approving projects with fake "public spaces." Undoubtedly this is what Alderman Forrest Owens means when he says "special places" (that is a favorite mantra of his--it could almost be a drinking game while watching a BMA meeting)-- tax incentives for developers.

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