The Dog Ate My Homework, if not site plans (or maybe the developer’s brain). Or, economic analysis of why we want the Mecklenburg and Johnson Mills “Low Income” Housing Project Rethought and the current developer FIRED
To paraphrase Jon Stewart‘s hysterical coverage of the DNC just about a month ago (OMG, was it that long ago? We are all still recovering), FACTS are a wonderful thing.
So we decided to follow the model used by, literally “America’s most trusted newsman” these days, to do the same thing on the NoDa Mills Project for our readers before the Council vote next week, some of whom, including an email from a REPORTER, came to the bizarre conclusion that we were against preservation of the Mills.
WE ARE NOT.
We just think, (to quote another media figure and erstwhile presidential candidate in this national election – the guy Jon Stewart likes to give a hard time about using a fork to eat pizza – and also known as THE DONALD) that well, the City Council if not the community should say, “TCB, YOU ARE FIRED.!!!”
Here is why.
The developer used really unacceptable excuses if not what in essence was a not so veiled threat, that the City somehow had MISLED them about the state of the building, or set up a too short inspection period, or yada yada, when in fact it was their incompetence, greed, apparent belief they could get away with it or whatever caused that ridiculous display of incompetence dressed up as excuses (whether based on deliberate “mistakes” or not) that led to the “unforeseen” overruns that now TCB is asking us all to pay for.
In the case of NoDa residents in particular, several times over. Plus the cost of a moving van plus extra hands and really expensive GASOLINE to move out of an area that’s become too expensive to live in any more if this deal goes through. Trust me, the locals here in NoDa are extremely miffed (if not being already forced out of their homes, rented or owned) about that apparent doubling of property tax this year in this area. Plus of course, the inevitable and unbelievable raise of rents around here which are closely related to the overs peculation of property. In Highland Mills Lofts, where I live and work, my neighbors are not pleased (if not moving) by a forced $100 dollar a month increase in our monthly rent when we think about signing next year’s lease. That crap only exists in New York as far as I’ve seen. The ISLAND OF MANHATTAN and certain over gentrified parts of Brooklyn in particular. And was a disaster. And that’s in a place where there are far more six figure salaries on a place called WALL STREET. Not to mention you can still buy a studio in some of the rapidly disappearing cheaper parts of the city for that kind of money. PRIVATE, non subsidized HOUSING.
But it’s not just NoDa and surrounding areas that will suffer. The city will also suffer too.
That said, without wanting to cast blame or use conjecture, or engage in defamation, guys (as in TCB AND those who didn’t do their homework (you know who you are) or did and decided to lobby for this developer by misusing that information, what on earth were you all thinking?
Frankly, everyone’s excuses were lame, although we place the most blame on the NoDa Community Board and TCB. In the case of the latter (TCB) the firm was clearly using the wrong equipment, and sorry, spin again. Your excuses are not valid. You bought it as is. Last time I checked, that means AS IS. But you still seem to think you can get away with this crap?
Boy where does that sound familiar? Oh yes, that’s what they did in a place called Cincinatti. Not to mention another place called Springfield Massachusetts, according to the Massachusetts law blog “Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly” about TCB’s lawsuit with the conversion of a property alot like the Mecklenburg and Johnston Mills project, and also involved the rehab of an abandoned building once used at the late part of the 19th and early part of 20th century (same era as our mills were built), that was once the site of the first commercial manufacturer of gasoline powered motorcycles.
Made a mistake? Oopsie. We’re not going to pay for it. Tough Cookies. YOU ARE. As in the DEVELOPER.
It’s called welcome to the reality of the other 99%. At least half of us who are also apparently included, in the half of America one candidate for national political office these days, also doesn’t care about either based on some widely “gone viral” video you might have heard about or seen lately that seemed to indicate that at least half of us (actually 47%) didn’t matter to him at all.
We don’t like people like that around here. You see, that means US. And I have to say for all my years in politics, including political ad production, that such ideas if not comments are not exactly a tact we have ever seen before, if not a rather, um, creative way to run for public office. I wonder what genius campaign commercial producer came up with that idea? Perhaps they should read the Dale Carnegie classic “How To Win Friends and Influence People.” If not attract VOTERS on your way to the Oval Office.
But back to economics and redevelopment of abandoned property. You see for those unfamiliar with this kind of developer (except the bragging that they were “national, not to mention white male run), been there, done that, and well, if they operate in the markets they claim to, they also know about things like asbestos if not lead paint remediation, if not HAZMAT issues in general that are just as applicable here as anywhere else, but particularly in places where this level of analysis if not remediation is required. You see in DC, Boston, New York, Chicago, etc, redevelopers like this (“nonprofit” or not) frequently deal with abandoned property with similar issues, even if not exactly the same ones at a more Northern Climate. So strike two. Still, no excuses. That kind of equipment if not procedure is MANDATORY. And if you think they don’t know that either, do a little searching online yourself. No dice.
Due diligence in this situation, is also required by the city and those who advocate to spend taxpayer money on this kind of project. And that apparently wasn’t done either, by those who should be doing so (which unfortunately includes the city). Per TCB’s documents found online by me yesterday in about half an hour’s “investigative” searching, I found some interesting material on the web (PUT OUT BY TCB THEMSELVES) that the average cost per unit nationally is about $255K per unit for this kind of property. Or about $20K LOWER than the budget presented in the September 24 City Council Agenda (where the cost added up actually to $278K per unit ) for Charlotte real estate and this development. Really? Charlotte real estate is MORE expensive to renovate than say a Northern site with asbestos, lead and other HAZMAT issues? And more expensive real estate in general?
See their own paperwork below. Section E.
Gosh, really? You mean that this “low income” developer is misusing tax credits and incentives for the most part to create “low income” housing that costs more than say similar projects in far more expensive housing markets like DC, Boston and Ohio.
I know Charlotte likes to think it’s special, but, we suggest, NOT THAT SPECIAL. Neither is NoDa.
But handily this model does fit into some of the most expensive and gentrified property values around here(we’ll come back to that later).
Who on earth did ANY due diligence on this firm? AT ALL? You see if anyone had done this, oh say, before granting the firm the contract, they would have found out that well, this firm has a history of all the worst problems that always haunt firms of this ilk. If not have dogged “public housing” for decades.
Starting with the fact that the real issue behind the failure of traditional public/low income or even “mixed” developments is that the real money is in the construction that mostly goes to the developer in the form of developer fees, and once the tax breaks are over, they flip it, usually to a substandard maintenance contract and a different firm. Or just not spend what they promised on maintenance. As they have a track record of doing (see article from Cincinatti reporting on not just one but TWO instances on the part of this developer for doing just that, sparked by local support for removing the developer from a project in THAT city, but also citing, in the same article, the developer’s past history in a place called Louisville where TCB was finally removed for gross mismanagement after a three year legal battle with the city.
GOSH, what a perfect developer to invite down here. I sure do look forward to wasting MORE city funds on law suits around this too that we have every indication, based on TCB’s track record, will happen here sooner or later if not removed now. Starting with the excuses and “solutions” on display at the LAST City Council meeting.
While we are not sure there is a direct causal connection, there sure seems to be some COINCIDENCES going on here. If not some gross misanalysis that will only benefit the NoDa Board if not the developer, and will hurt everyone else here as described above. And seems to be an attempt, as we alleged previously, to falsely re-inflate property values that are ENTIRELY unjustified for this region.
Here is why.
If you click HERE you will find a map of this zipcode, as well as the average cost of houses for sale, put together by an independent source and reveal if not prove beyond doubt and very clearly what we initially claimed. Recent housing price trends in this zipcode are actually BELOW what the developer is proposing just for construction. And, as a corollary why this project is ill thought out at best if not deliberately and disingenuously promoted to this date.
You see that link above shows information you will find easy to understand that shows very clearly that in fact these “low income” if not “non-profit” housing developers are in fact creating units that often are more expensive than all but the MOST gentrified parts of this zipcode (28205) in Charlotte. In fact they come in only slightly lower on the proposed cost per unit as described by an incredulous member of the City Council on this issue last week (of $300K per unit) as one of the most expensive private homes for sale right now (with four bedrooms and about 1800 square feet on E. 37th Street) currently on the market in this zipcode. On Matheson Avenue, you have a two bedroom going for $94K. On East 35th Street (one of the most gentrified roads in the area and home to the current NoDa Neighborhood Association President Hollis Nixon) you find a home on sale for $284,900. That means that the redevelopment construction costs of “low income housing” as proposed by this firm will actually out price one of the most expensive private streets and properties in this area.
Does that make sense to you? Especially with this next FACT?
Per THIS LINK you will see that MEDIAN home prices ON THE PRIVATE MARKET in this zipcode (28205) were at the end of Q’2 of this year (July 2012 if you had any doubt), averaging about $82K. Or about 1/3 of the “LOW INCOME” government subsidized housing project per unit will cost us.
Does THIS make any sense?
Particularly as the MEDIAN SALARY of people living in this zipcode is, according to THIS WEBSITE, is about $42K per year. And about 60% of residents make less than $50K per year.
That said, this site also proves what we have been claiming all along.
The AVERAGE asking price for property here is about $206K. Or about $35K MORE than the average SALE of real estate in these parts lately.
Or to put it another way, the difference in the asking and selling price around here is about equal to the MEDIAN salary of those who live here.
OR, to put this in direct comparison with the construction costs ALONE as proposed by TCB for this project, the costs of construction alone for the Mill Project per TCB will cost about $70K MORE than the OVERINFLATED ASKING PRICES in this zipcode, and about in line with what is the AVERAGE SALE PRICE of regular “non low income” and certainly non government subsidized private housing.
That is the developer does what it says it will.
And that is a big IF, just based on previous track records as described here by independent sources.
FINAL FACTS AND ANALYSIS
The picture this paints is the typical ugly problem of the deliberate exploitation of most of us for the benefit of the richest of us. If not the ongoing and perpetual (stupid) reasons for the failure of “traditional” public housing development that is actually a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Essentially, this developer is proposing to spend as much if not more than the upper end of the private property in this area. That will only drive property taxes as well as rent up as is already happening, and as a result, drive most of us 99ers OUT. Is NoDa really going to become another enclave of the 1%?
We hope not.
So not only is this developer proposing a project that is not only not “affordable” if not “low income housing.” It’s also called deliberate over gentrification of a neighborhood for the benefit of a very few, while the majority, including the people who work here, can’t afford to live here.
It’s also called YOUR TAX dollars going to projects which are not exactly what they claim to be and in fact not only are going to be used for continued justification of an over gentrification of this area, if not justify price increases in this neighborhood in the PRIVATE SECTOR. And will affect both owners AND renters.
Which means this one “affordable” if not “low income” developer will only make the problem NoDa and Charlotte face even more intractable to overcome.
Both of those mills ARE an important part of this city’s history, if not strategically well placed around public transport.
It’s not the idea we object to.
It’s the way it’s being executed (or not) and by whom.
For those who may still harbor doubt about our motives and the final reason we advocate for the renovation of this project just not this way is that there is a deep family connection and symbolism to me personally to those Mills in particular.
You see, my great grandmother worked in most of the mills in NoDa when they were still operating mills during WWII when she lived with both her daughters and grandchild (my mother) while her son and son-in-law went off to fight in the Pacific. In other words, this area and the mills in their first incarnation, helped support my family.
And who can argue with that?
Further, they are part of the BEST history of the Old South. Highland Mills, which is the model Mecklenburg and Johnston and similar mills throughout the South were based on, and in the case of Highland Mills, were the FIRST COMMERCIAL property IN THE ENTIRE COUNTRY to think about commercial air conditioning.
Back in 1903.
That would be a time, in case you were wondering, when nobody had a telephone, and most residents of Charlotte still had no interior plumbing if not electricity.
I remember, even as a 13 year old kid, dropped into Charlotte from London, a 2,000 year old city at the age of 13 (in 1980) my great-grandmother Ethel used to tell me stories about working here, what it was like, and I was entranced by the local stories and history. If not innovative technology that my great-grandmother Ethel experienced several times in her life and made sure to inspire me about them. The first one being the family lore that when she was a little girl on a dirt farm in King’s Mountain, she used to see the Wright Brother’s practice. And apparently when she waved at them, they waved back.
The point is, that these mills are structures that represent critical local history that will remind those of us who follow where we came from. If not offer, if redeveloped sustainably, a reminder that innovation and entrepreneurialism if not industry has always been part of this region.
The human story is important.
For that very reason, this kind of shoddy approach to drive out what was always best about this region, is why we again advocate for the City Council to pull the plug, if not return the check and look elsewhere.
We even have a suggestion and model already that will be far more sustainable and achieve the desired effect. Low income housing, jobs that aren’t just temporary, and a way to engage in sustainable development that benefits all of us.