Friday, May 29, 2009

Downtown Dealings Redux

Posted By on Fri, May 29, 2009 at 5:25 PM

City Manager Mike Letcher has released the latest version of the development agreement between the city of Tucson and downtown developers Scott Stiteler and Don Martin, whose negotiations have been covered in depth by Dave Devine.

The council is set to discuss the agreement this Tuesday, June 2. Letcher says he wants to council members to give him some direction on what sort of changes they want before a final version is nailed down.

Dave Devine has looked over the draft and has some quick takeaways:

• The developers are still saying they’ll spend $5 million on Rialto block, the theatre and the 200 block of East Congress St. But how much of that is spent on the theatre, which is owned by the city of Tucson, is unclear to us.

As we note in The Skinny this week, the plucky theatre is fighting for some space now owned by Stiteler and Martin that is vital to the theatre’s continued operation.

• Stiteler and Martin are reducing their commitment on Toole Avenue

in the warehouse district from $5 million to $4.5 million. The developers are planning on developing a retail/gallery/residential complex that includes affordable housing. (It had better have some affordable housing, because we don't think people are going to pay top dollar to be up against the railroad tracks.)

• Stiteler and Martin are committing to give an art organization that works in the downtown area $50,000 a year for two years. That money will be distributed at the discretion of the developer, which means that the members of Warehouse Arts Management Organization will have to weigh whether they want to risk criticizing the deal and possibly losing out on up to $100,000 in future funding.

• The developers are kicking $50K a year to the city’s façade improvement program for five years and giving $50K to Skrappy’s for three years.

• In exchange for their public investments, Stiteler and Martin are looking for $4 million in land that’s now owned by the city, although the list of properties is vague. The only two parcels now in the agreement are a former Volvo dealership on Broadway east of downtown and a portion of the Ronstadt Transit Center along Congress Street.

The developers have set up the timing of the agreement so that they’re eligible to receive 20 percent of that $4 million in land—or property valued at $800,000—with the completion of the concept plan. Also, 16 percent—or land worth $640,000—would be available when they lease (or renew leases) of not less than 8,000 square feet in their current holdings. Does that mean that just leasing space to restaurateur Janos Wilder, continuing to rent to businesses on Congress Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues and renting out the storefronts at One Fifth Avenue would put them over the threshold? Maybe, which means they’d be eligible to $1.4 million in property almost as soon as they sign the agreement. That could give them the former Volvo dealership on Broadway for doing little more than signing the contract with the city.

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