consultants are sandburs

Thursday, June 23, 2011

RAMSEY -- Flaherty and Collins. My thinking, let them build more rental on their triangle lot, downtown Indianapolis. City fathers there can pile on financing freebies. Let Ramsey say no while getting out of development speculation and back into patching roads.

This thing in Indianapolis is BUTT UGLY. Our ramp, by itself, looks better.

They made a ramp-wrap rental happen in Indianapolis, after the fire. Bless them. Let them go for more. There.

The photo is from this report. This is an excerpt:

Developer plans $24M second phase for Cosmopolitan
February 11, 2011

The developer Flaherty & Collins is finalizing plans for a second phase of Cosmopolitan on the Canal that calls for 162 more apartments, a 180-space parking garage and a small amount of retail space at a cost of about $24 million. The new section is proposed for a triangle-shaped parcel bordered by Michigan and Senate streets and Indiana Avenue, just south of the existing building.

The first apartment phase of Cosmopolitan is 100 percent leased, which suggests Flaherty could have demanded higher rents, said Jim Crossin, the company's vice president of development. [...]

The commercial space in Cosmopolitan is another story. About 12,000 square feet remain on the first floor after Flaherty last week landed its first tenant: The branding and advertising firm Three-Sixty Group has agreed to take about 5,000 square feet [...]

Flaherty, which bought the land for Cosmopolitan from OneAmerica, hopes to secure a city incentive deal and begin construction on the second phase by early 2012. [...]

There is much to learn from Indianapolis:

1- It's ugly.

2- These guys have an established Modus Operandi. Squeeze local governments for subsidies, for their own private sector rental projects. Let them do that in Indianapolis again, more of the same, there, and bless them if the city fathers there give them a great and substantial subsidy.

3- Humongo rental is PROVEN TO NOT BE A "CATALYST" FOR COMMERCIAL. From reporting about downtown Indianapolis, that fact you can take to the bank.

This is so, even for built vacant opportunities on the rental's own ground floor; and not vaguely to the north or to the west of it within an unbuilt wasteland. So what of that same experiment, in the outlands of Ramsey rather than in an established densely populated and culturally vibrant urban neighborhood bordering a university district? Go figure.

This Cosmopolitan ground floor opportunity situation probably explains Flaherty & Collins wanting to weasel out of putting even a bare 3000 sq.ft. of retail into its planned Ramsey ramp wrap. They KNOW from experinece that their stuff catalyzes nothing. This urban vacancy situation in Indianapolis seems no different from the rental/condo/whatever stuff now on the ground in downtown Elk River, an existing and real downtown and not some trucked in prefab; where retail vacancy stands out like a sore thumb.

All that "momentum" stuff and "catalyst" stuff is BS.

Cronk of Flaherty & Collins may tell Darren of Landform the opposite, but his bosses, Flaherty & Collins have on-the-ground proof that it simply has not worked as the "scenario" being touted in Ramsey aggressively argues. For all I know, Cronk may be telling Lazan that it hasn't worked, I am no part to any such conversations, but Lazan seems nonetheless to be singing mightily of catalyst momenta, whatever Cronk tells him. Whatever information source Lazan has for spinning that tale, it seems clear that FC on the ground in Indiana contradicts him. That's the news reported from Indiana, with no cause to disbelieve.

4- This hang-it-onto-the-ramp rental is NOT a shoppe, nor a restaurant, as were years ago promised to flow from Clown Center. Add that to the proven fact noted above - that ramp-wrap-rental is proven as unlikely to "catalyze" shoppes or restaurants miraculously sprouting in Town Center dirt. Put another way, we been bamboozeled from day one by those using the "shoppe" spelling in the first instance when raw land was to be sold, onward to the present, about retail, shops and restaurants - which is all that the existing people in Ramsey want and care about, and existing people in Ramsey are not in droves shouting for wanting any city co-venturing into rental development schemes with public cash.

5- When Cosmopolitan burned down, Flaherty people did rebuild. They have that track record. However this report noted:

The Cosmopolitan fire has been described as the biggest fire in Downtown Indianapolis in 20 years; it took 125 firefighters nearly 11 hours to get it under control.

To my knowledge, there has been no council thought given to the scale of possible fire threat, the adequacy of existing fire fighting size to meet such a blaze, nor to the cost of any necessary upgrade. Dean Kapler is quite capable, but has he weighed in on this, or even been asked by council to publicly express a studied opinion of the added fire risks Ramsey might face from hanging that eyesore onto the city ramp?

6- Comments to the article cited at the opening of the post, this link, are clear that citizens there, as here, are disinclined to want government subsidization of private sector gambles.

7- Article comments also suggest the demand for rental where FC built in downtown Indianapolis near a vibrant university community was pent up and substantial, factors not at all at play for such a thing out in the tules and directly next to the busiest freight hauling rail line in the state of Minnesota. Some of those coal trains from out west seem almost endless, and the land vibrates when they are passing by.

8- Nobody argues against the idea that such a ramp-wrap project might work in downtown Minneapolis or in the University district. The point is that is there and we are here, and who wants to commute miles and miles daily to Plymouth or Bloomington or elsewhere where the jobs are, and at the same time live in a humongo-costly pie-in-the-sky Ramsey rabbit hutch rental next to fast and loud night trains? Common sense has a place in all this. Paraphrasing the Jerry McGuier film, "Show me the pent-up demand." Prove to me, "Build it and they will come." That should come before "Show me the money" arises among the council savants, wanting to show and shower it upon Mr. Flaherty and Mr. Collins, who are properly willing to receive as much city money as they can extort by threatening to walk from a deal without more sugar.

9- Jason Tossey is spot on, in advocating city effort to try to get a Fleetfarm outlet here, which would be of use to the hunting-fishing inclinations of many now living in Ramsey. Aim to fit the population, rather than aiming to want to retool the population into suburban rabbit-hutch renter types.

10- It is ugly.

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