If there was ever a time for negotiation, now is the time. POKO Phase I has a new site application in front of zoning. Covid has slowed down all lawsuits. The Milligan lawsuits have a new judge. Court mediation is available at no cost to the City.
POKO was designed as three separate sequential phases. Phase I got started in 2015 and then stopped in 2016. Since then it has been the #1 drawback for Wall Street. There is a new Phase I project currently under review by the Zoning Commission.
The new project is:
- Ugly & Out of place
- It is too tall for the area (6 Stories)
- It gets too much money from the taxpayers ($4.4 million)
- It provides zero public parking spaces after getting a City owned lot for free
- It won’t pay its fair share of taxes due to a special 15-year property tax arrangement
Ironically, the new project won’t be that “affordable.”
Zoning Commission will likely approve. I will likely take an appeal and there will likely be years of additional litigation.
There is an argument that this POKO project is better than nothing.
After 2.5 years of lawsuits an actual trial has not even started. Everything so far has been preliminary. The public parties have spent approximately $1 million on legal. A new judge has recently replaced the old judge.
The disagreement of the main lawsuit can be summarized quite easily. The City legal department claims that I owe the City 88 public parking spaces because that was the original deal made with Ken Olson. The City is upset because they gave Olson a parking lot for free, but I paid $3.2 million for the parking lot. I say that if the City lives up to their requirements in the original agreement that I will live up to Olson’s part including providing the 88 parking spaces.
The City agreed to build a New Street that was the central piece for the three phases. The City agreed to fund $4.4 million for this street and other infrastructure, however recently they canceled the street, and moved all $4.4 million to Phase I for Citibank/McClutchy. The City cannot cherry pick the benefits of the original agreement and at the same time cancel their obligations. Further, making material changes to Phase I undermines the viability of Phases II & III.
I remain willing to follow the original agreement if the City is also willing to live up to it. I am willing to cancel the original agreement. I am also willing to negotiate something else fair.
I am not going anywhere.
I now own 38 total properties in the Wall Street area including eight that abut Phase I. I have spent considerable time, energy and money improving my properties. I have moved 12 new companies into the area including two boutique manufacturing companies. I have built or renovated 34 apartments and I have 74 more in the pipeline. I have also commissioned more than 80 pieces of public art in the area.
My parking lot has approximately 130 parking spaces that have been available for public parking since the day after I bought it. The day I bought it I cleared away 6-foot-high fencing and truckloads of rotten building materials, broken glass, and abandoned unregistered cars.
The parking lot has been a bright spot for the area. It has become an Art Park with pieces of art created by local artists. It has been a tourist attraction and drive thru gallery during the pandemic. It has been used for three concerts. A dog parade. A major church event including baptisms and many more things.
Now is a perfect time to try Court mediation. There is a new project being considered. There is a new judge. Covid has made court even slower than normal. Court mediation is FREE.
Please urge the Mayor and the City Council to enter court mediation.
Mediation has huge potential upside and zero downside…