Posts Tagged ‘Union Corners’

Ho-Chunk to buy Union Corners?

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

It is just a rumor, but my source is in the know with regard to all things real estate, commercial & residential.

This has the potential to be a Very Good Thing. Note that I said potential.

And no, it doesn’t necessarily mean casino, so calm down. Another aspect of the rumor is that there would be an attempt to keep to the original vision of McGrath. But we’ll see….

If this turns out to be true, I’ve just got to (giddily) point out that I’ve scooped the local dying mainstream media, as well as their nemesis, Brenda Konkel. Heh.

Union Corners v Kelo: On Eminent Domain, Liberty and a Movement to Buy the Site

Friday, November 13th, 2009
Soon-to-be-Demolished French Battery Building

Soon-to-be-Demolished French Battery Building

The NYT ran an article about the giant hole still in the ground at the site of one of the most contentious eminent domain cases in the history of the country, Kelo v. City of New London.

In Madison, we were under similar threat. Back during the Great Real Estate Boom of the early->mid-Aughts, several developers joined with urban renewalists at the city to threaten eminent domain against small property owners in strategic spots across the city.

The SASY neighborhood (my hood) was steadfast in its opposition to using the awesome power of eminent domain for the profit of private enterprise. Our contention: there is no moral standing for using the power of government to bully property owners, except in the extreme case of public necessity for a public purpose (our nation’s constitution does a pretty good job of spelling this out). Enriching rich individuals further, using the tools of government, does not rise to the level of necessity; nor does it have a public purpose. To do otherwise would amount to — yes, I’ll say it — fascism. In fact, using the powers of government to expropriate individual property for the benefit of other, state-favored enterprises is one of the hallmarks of that form of totalitarianism.

The developer who did this…

Union Corners: Rayovac Building Comes Down
Union Corners: French Battery Building Comes Down

and left us with this…

Union Corners Hole in the Ground
Union Corners Hole in the Ground

had attempted to enlist our alder and mayor in threatening adjacent property owners (Trudy’s Cafe, Ford’s Gym, the old radiator shop, miscellaneous homeowners) in using eminent domain. City staff did actually wave the cudgel of eminent domain. Fortunately, neighborhood leaders stepped up to stare down these petty fascists, and we forced the big man developer to negotiate in good faith. We made certain that our political leaders knew that they would pay the ultimate political price if they allowed eminent domain to be invoked.

Thanks to the efforts of the neighborhood, the adjacent property owners were able to receive a fair value for their properties. We, as a neighborhood, stood together, in solidarity with our neighbors who were threatened.

Things didn’t turn out so righteously for Kelo in New London. And while Madison is stuck with the same giant hole in the ground, at least no one was economically harmed in the process. Well, ok, except for the developer who overreached at the top of the market. Justice prevailed on several karmic levels here.

The lesson seems to be:

A) When it comes to real estate, everything has a price. And when it comes to private developers, let that price be decided by private negotiation, not public bullying.

B) When it comes to massive projects that involve tearing down existing structures, the city should require some sort of bond to ensure that the project goes forward. The bond could be refunded in tranches as the project moves forward. At completion, the final half of the bond would be refunded.  If it doesn’t then that bond continues to be held by the city.

This should all be done in a way that is not harmful to a developer who acts in good faith and manages finances for completion of the project.

Cities should not be held hostage to the impulses of poor management. Giant holes in the ground for years on end, in the middle of existing neighborhoods are simply not acceptable.

Update on Union Corners: Last night Joe Mingle came to the Schenk-Atwood-Starkweather-Yahara neighborhood council meeting to give an update on the various movements afoot to do something with that giant hole in the ground. These groups are investigating ways of leveraging several sources of money, including, perhaps, the new Landbanking Fund, federal tax credits and various community lending sources to eventually buy the land. This would probably necessitate a new neighborhood planning process…..

From Wasted Spaces to People Places

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

I very much enjoy Allison Arieff’s By Design column in the NYT. She is one of the most insightful observers of ‘place’ in the country right now–definitely the heiress to Jane Jacobs!

Her latest post, “Pavement to Parks,” discusses landbanking underutilized land for fun, but temporary, purposes. What a great way to get us through this real estate recession.

Locally, a citizen group is toying with new ideas for the dead-in-the-water Union Corners site.