Thursday, February 14, 2008

I was wrong: Portsmouth to go with Lincoln Property's development plan

Looks as if I was wrong. Mistaken. Misinformed. Incorrect. Did I mention I was wrong?

Meghan Hoyer of the Virginian Pilot reports today:
The non profit, city-run corporation that owns the downtown Holiday Inn site is expected to approve a development agreement Friday with Lincoln Property Company to build roughly 450 residential units, two parking garages and commercial stores on the riverfront site.
Nice to know the City of Portsmouth has taken the absolutely most prime spot for development and, against their consultant's counsel, is moving forward to develop the riverside plot.

I'm also comforted that the City has chosen to work with a developer who's previously done absolutely nothing for Portsmouth. And, I'm comforted that they've chosen a developer whose proposal is damn awful ugly and has not a single architectural feature to tie it to the neighborhood it borders. And, I'm comforted by the thought that the City will pay out more than $14 million for a project that, if all goes well, will pay back $10 million in six years. And, finally, I'm comforted that the City, which spent over a million dollars at the other end of Crawford Street, thinks so much of public assitance that it's willing to spend my tax dollars to feather some corporate pocket book.

Oh, I'm also comforted that so many people will want to live in high rise apartments. Didn't I see that Norfolk has, in addition to Granby Towers, two more downtown high-rise projects in the works? I'm glad to see that the market research shows that Portsmouth is so unlike any other city that it will be able to capture high-end condo owners.

My only question is this: What monies and other perks have members of the City Council, and other governmental entities, received from Lincoln Property? I, for one, would like to see full disclosure. Not that I will in a thousand years, but I'd still like to see it.

Check out the comments posted under Ms. Hoyer's article.


  1. I know, I know. It seems really counter-intuitive and, to many, very suspicious. But let me first list a couple of FACTS - something few of us ever spend time to dig up when we get emotional. FACT 1 - This is not the design Lincoln will use. Not even close. At the most, this graphic is a back-of-the-envelope flight-of-fantasy which ALL developers provide in order to "check the box" when asked to submit an official response to a Request for Submittals. These responses are expensive enough as it is, without paying an architect to really study and draw up what will actually make sense. I can promise that whatever Lincoln does, it will look much more appropriate and harmonious with the surrounding context. In fact, there are laready newer, more desirable renderings, but the paper chose this older one. (In my opinion, they chose an image which they knew would enflame debate and stoke readership.) FACT 2 - Does anyone really think that the Council members have anything personally to gain from this? Really? These poor Council members know that they are under the world's largest microscope. Heck, Lincoln hasn't even started this project and already there have been front page articles and blogs tracking every move. You really think that one of them is actually trying to pull something shady in the middle of all of this scrutiny? You might not like their decisions, but you can't possibly think they are that stupid. I happen to know just how careful they are being to do everything by the book. Further, it is this kind of inuendo (actually, outright slander) that makes them have to move at a snail's pace in order to remain doubly and triply transparent to the public. It is amazing how paralyzed by fear these leaders are because they are so afraid that someone will suspect them of profiteering. FACT 3 - The tax base associated with rents and property sales is really a red-herring. That is, the $10MM associated with property tax pales in comparison to the real prize. The real prize is made up of the businesses that will move to the new office space in Portsmouth, the wealthy types of folks who will move to Portsmouth (and will subsequently spend their wealth in Portsmouth) and the follow up developers, businesses and investors that will follow right behind Lincoln. Yes I know, there already is vacant office space in Portsmouth. I've been in many of those spaces, and I can tell you that they aren't fit for a sweat-shop, let alone the kind of hiring-engine/economy-stimulator businesses that we want to draw here.

    And believe me, Portsmouth will become a Seller's market in no time for all the reasons we already know.
    Based on my comment, one might conclude that I am a stooly for Lincoln. I truly am not. I am just terribly afraid that Portsmouth will fumble away this opportunity to attract a national player to our community, whoever it is. I don't know Lincoln from Adam. But I do believe with my heart that we want the world to hear a story about how wonderful it is to live, work and invest in Portsmouth. As counter-intuitive as it obviously seems to most people, it takes money to get out of an economic rut. Invest wisely with PROVEN companies (like Lincoln) and ALL citizens will enjoy dividends in the near-term.

  2. The real building(s) never look like the really futuristic blue prints...