I guess we’ll be seeing Charlottesville’s Landmark to the Great Recession for a while longer. Giving incentives to developers is often regarded as a bad thing, but in this case, the choice as I saw, was to either keep a deteriorating building, or provide a relatively small tax break in order to gain more tax revenue for the City of Charlottesville.
Serious questions: what solution is being proposed by the opponents to transform the Landmark into affordable housing? What is the proposed timeline and cost?
Ahead of the Charlottesville City Council’s final meeting of the year, the local arm of the Democratic Socialists of America protested the city’s plan to award the developer of an unfinished hotel building a tax break so that construction can be completed sooner rather than later.
“We’re trying to bring attention to the agreement the city has made with Dewberry,” said Michael Payne, a Democratic Socialist organizer.
Payne said he thinks the city needs to condemn the property and transform the site into affordable housing.
“I think the property is abandoned and is a nuisance. It’s a risk to the public and there’s been no effort to develop it,” he said.
Construction of the hotel, formerly known as the Landmark, started in 2008.
When the original project developers were forced to stop construction due to financial constraints and other problems, Dewberry, an Atlanta-based developer who has focused in recent years on developing a luxury hotel brand bearing his name, purchased the site at auction for $6.5 million in 2012.
At the start of 2016, the council sought to address the issue after loose debris from the incomplete hotel building damaged neighboring businesses. A council resolution on the matter led some to believe the city might seek to condemn the property, but officials chose to work with the developer to incentivize construction of the squalid tower looming over the Downtown Mall.
In return for guaranteeing 75 reserved parking spaces in the Water Street Parking Garage and an annual tax rebate that could amount to more than $1 million in the 10 years after the hotel opens, Dewberry would have needed to invest at least $20 million into the development of the project and “substantially complete construction” of the building by Sept. 30, 2020.
The estimate for the tax cut was based on an agreement to provide the developer an annual grant equal to 50 percent of what the developer pays for the property’s real estate tax each year.
As a friend succinctly noted
Great for the mall, great for the businesses, great for tourism, great for the overall economy, great for City revenue despite the tax incentives. Good job, guys.
Let’s look at the Belmont Bridge project for context on how quickly the City of Charlottesville is likely to move forward with condemning the Landmark, crafting a design, doing the necessary community roundtables and design charrettes and steering meetings, putting to public bid the architectural work, publicly bidding contractors …
The Belmont Bridge was built in 1961 and a study in 2003 determined the bridge’s deck was deteriorating and recommended replacement as a more cost-effective solution than repair. City officials say the $14.5 million project, and a proposal submitted by MMM Design, are on hold so that some new ideas can be evaluated.
The Charlottesville Board of Architectural Review held a preliminary discussion about the Belmont Bridge Tuesday. The conceptual designs presented by consultant Kimley-Horn were the culmination of over 30,000 individual data points collected from community meetings, surveys and the Belmont Bridge project website.
Ok, then. Fingers crossed, and breath held.
A few Landmark Instagrams