Longmont's getting malled
Mayor Bryan Baum came into office on a wing and a promise. And in the black art of “used car” salesmanship, he’s hoping you won’t notice the sleight of hand.
During the 2009 campaign Baum repeatedly chastised the 2007 City Council on their progress on reviving Twin Peaks Mall and claimed that he would make it happen. And what has been Mayor Bryan Baum’s position on the Mall since his election? “Oh, well, there’s nothing we can do about it. The Mall is private property and the city has no control over it.”
Mayor Baum, you knew all along that this was private property but you chose to use the state of the mall to agitate your way into public office. Voters are getting mighty exasperated with politicians making promises that they don’t keep. And you made a whopper. No matter how you cut the mustard, you have done nothing. Fool them once, shame on you. Voters won’t be fooled twice.
Longmont Mayor Bryan Baum - Dim moment
During the run-up to the 2009 city election Mayor Baum totally dismissed the previous council’s action to “blight” the mall and surrounding properties. And we all know that the qualifications for “blight” are broad enough to drive a Mack truck through them. It would have been just as supportable to deny a blighted condition.
The 2007 Council also arranged for mall development experts to conduct a two-day charette in October 2008 to determine how the entire mall area might be designed and developed to meet the many needs of the citizens and City of Longmont.
The community might be very interested to know that when the final chapter of that event was to be presented – the financial analysis by Panattoni – their computers (all of them?) failed and there were NO numbers produced. More than curious.
The city was negotiating with Panattoni on how Tax Increment Financing (TIF) might be used, but Panattoni wanted $15 million in bonds for Phase I only, an outrageous amount of exposure for the city. To pay off these public bonds, Panattoni wanted to use 100% of all new property taxes and 90% of all new allowable city sales taxes collected at the mall to construct their version of Phase I. The public benefit to the city would have been a mere 10% of new sales taxes generated. Panattoni further disregarded not only the ideas generated in the charette, but disregarded the public’s input from numerous public meetings on Twin Peaks redevelopment. Their “my way or the highway” negotiating position caused the negotiations to break down.
Incidentally, lost property taxes to our schools from TIF have to be backfilled by the state. As everyone knows, budget shortfalls at the state level have resulted in repeated cuts to education.
Panattoni purchased the mall at the height of the development craze in July 2007 for $37 million. And it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that intentions were expressed, if not promises made, to Panattoni by the sitting council at the time of the purchase. In February the mall was valued at $17 million.
Panattoni hired NewMark Merrill, a shopping center management firm known for specializing in distressed properties, to handle the mall’s myriad of problems. Just recently Bank of America placed Twin Peaks Mall into foreclosure.
But then I suspect that foreclosure was anticipated by those that Baum has called “connected.” Connected, in this case means Longmont’s “Old Guard,” its oligarchy, select movers and shakers within the business community but far from all of Longmont’s business community. It certainly does not include those council members who are not part of the Baum majority.
If/when the mall is sold, it clearly will be a short sale. How low the fire sale price goes will depend on how big a bath Bank of America wants to take. Panattoni put $8 million down on the property.
Should Longmont be fortunate to have a new mall owner – one that is not looking for a deal that includes the sun, moon and the stars – I hope that Longmont will have a mayor who will look out for the interests of the entire community and not one who will give out the city’s PIN on yet another wing and a promise.