27 questions about a $26 million public subsidy for the Bloom Capital Project

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That works out to about a million dollars of public subsidy for the project per question. I am not happy with the lack on information that I have received, so I wrote out my questions in excruciating detail and asked staff for a response. My ultimate goal here is to make sure the community receives more in value that we are providing in subsidy.

Team

Every time this comes up I am asking the same questions and not having answers provided. I have gotten to the point where I am simply voting against the project every time and will continue to do so.

In my continuing attempt to get meaningful answers I am going to list out what I specifically am looking for in understanding the public benefit of the Bloom project.

If everything went exactly as has been presented I will be as happy than a pig in mud, I remain fearful that this will not the case and we are not adequately protecting ourselves.

Here is what I believe has happened to date and my questions.

1) The City of Rochester has granted and extended exclusive negotiations with Bloom Capital and received no compensation in return.

2) The City has agreed to give 2 blocks of riverfront to Bloom Capital as partial incentive for the yet to be approved project. The city valued the land at $8 million or approximately $73 per square foot, Bloom will be responsible for tearing down the existing 435 stall parking ramp. In addition we are losing about another 50 or so spots in a surface lot. As part of phase 1 of the project a new ramp will be constructed of which 146 parking spots will be public parking spots owned by the city.

Questions: 

  • Are my numbers correct here, what are the exact figures? 
  • How many square feet of land is part of the package (I know it is about 2.5 acres, but would like an exact figure)?
  • What are the estimated demolition costs for the existing 2nd street ramp?
  • Are there any environmental remediation costs associated with the project?

3) The city will be providing approximately $18 million in additional TIF for the project. Suggested benefits include an improved public realm along the 1.5 blocks of waterfront, a public park on top of the parking deck, and a public art water feature. In addition we will be receiving 146 public parking spots. Here is where I will need whoever is our financial agent to get me some realistic figures.

Questions:

  • Based on estimated costs of construction, what is the dollar value of the 146(?) parking spots?
  • Based on the cost of construction, what is the cost of the decking and creating the park above the parking structure?
  • Is the park area publicly or privately owned?
  • If the park is privately owned what user rights will the public have?
  • Will the outdoor riverfront areas be publicly or privately owned, if they are privately owned what access rights will the public have?
  • How many square feet of riverfront property will there be?
  • What is the cost of the construction of the riverfront spaces?
  • How will the development connect the public spaces to the water?
  • What will be the cost of the public art / water feature component?
  • Are there any other public benefit construction costs that I missed?

4) The project is proposed to be done in 2 phases. Phase I is between 3rd and 4th streets SE. I suspect Phase II will be far more complicated.

Questions:

  • Will the TIF be structured such that receipt of TIF will be predicated upon completion of both Phases, not just Phase I?
  • Will the project timeline require completion of Phase II by a certain date.
  • In the event that either Phase I or Phase II are not completed as proposed, what will the public recourse be to diminish TIF, recoup donated land, or receive additional compensation for land?

5) Because this will be a DMC project I believe some other requirements are tripped.

Questions:

  • What provisions will be triggered by this being a DMC project (MN steel, prevailing wage, B3 standards, women and minority owned business participation, other)?

6) In addition to the value of hard public assets, the negotiation for TIF can include many other soft benefits to the community. I am interested in what other benefits may be explored or captured?

Questions:

  • Has any sort of community benefits agreement been considered?
  • Has the city explored the possibility of a living wage mandate within the constructed properties?
  • Has the city explored a requirement for affordable housing within the condominium portion of the project?
  • Has the city considered requirements allowing small locally owned businesses to affordably lease a portion of commercial spaces?
  • Has the city considered development assistance in programming or maintaining public spaces?
  • Has the city considered any programs aimed at using local contractors?
  • What is the estimated contribution to our affordable housing fund per the city TIF capture policy?

7) One of the greatest concerns about the use of TIF and the speculation around the DMC district has been irrational land value escalation.

Questions:

  • How will staff use the combination of this land valuation and TIF allotment to prevent the use of public subsidy to compensate for overpriced land in other parts of the DMC district?

8) Lastly;

Questions:

  • Is there anything else the public should know that I missed?

While I am not opposed to the project, I am opposed with heading down the path of approval and massive public assistance without clearly understanding the costs and benefits.

4 comments

  1. What is happening to the pedestrian management issue for phase 2 of construction so that seniors, frail people and handicapped do not lose skyway connections during construction from Fontaine Towers, Holliday Inn Condos, the guests in the replacement building for the Holiday Inn condos and people trying to access via skyway the H3Plaza building (including the IRS and medical/legal offices and restaurants) as well as the government center? This needs to be

  2. People in the Fontaine Towers building are very worried they will lose access to skyways. The skyways have been there life-saving travel to medical facilities and everything else downtown. They couldn’t even have access to the library unless they crossed the street and what a dangerous thing for blind people, people in wheelchairs and the people with Mobility difficulties going across 2nd Street. It would be a disaster situation. If there is any way possible way to connect Fontaine Towers in the library, it would at least get them in the Skyway system.

  3. People in the Fontaine Towers building are very worried they will lose access to skyways. The skyways have been there life-saving travel to medical facilities and everything else downtown. They couldn’t even have access to the library unless they crossed the street and what a dangerous thing for blind people, people in wheelchairs and the people with Mobility difficulties going across 2nd Street. It would be a disaster situation. If there is any way possible way to connect Fontaine Towers to the library, it would at least get them into the Skyway system.

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