Not The Right Kind Of Progress

Anyone attending or listening online to the Museum Square hearing this past week in Scottsdale couldn’t help but be impressed by the progress made by merchants, the city and the project towards a positive resolution.

To write a story about it, the capstone of which was a unanimous Planning Commission approval vote, would be straightforward, and the kind of reporting anyone would learn in journalism school.

Yet, that is not what resulted in the latest version of the Scottsdale Progress.  Let’s be clear.  The paper’s re-introduction into the community has been a positive.  A big one.

But the paper’s most recent article might be its lowest moment since debuting anew.

Rather than provide an objective account of what took place at the Planning Commission – overwhelming support – the paper engaged in a self-indulgent story focusing on something entirely different.  And that is a necessary, common sense reduction in the price of the land sale to Museum Square because of City of Scottsdale errors and deficiencies.

Let’s provide a quick refresher for readers.

Right now there exists an abandoned transit station at the far southern tip of Old Town.  Rather than see it continue to gather tumbleweeds, smart city leadership decided to sell it for upwards of $30 million for a new project, Museum Square.

To do so, the city had to conduct an appraisal to determine fair market value.  It did so assuming the proposed heights of Museum Square.  But the appraisal did not take into account an unknown deed restriction on the site limiting heights to 60 feet.  If this had been understood the appraisal and sales price would have been substantially lower, millions lower.

Besides providing the city with tens of millions in new revenue Museum Square’s construction will provide another $8 million in one-time construction sales tax revenue along with some $1 million each year beyond that. The beneficial math is obvious and a reason the Scottsdale Firefighter’s Association and police organizations have sent in letters of support, among many others.

To remove the deed restriction the city considered an awkward arrangement the Scottsdale Progress reported on that was quickly abandoned, and rightfully so.

But by abandoning their effort the city imposed on Museum Square the obligation to try and resolve the matter itself.  It appears to have done so. But its cost should not be an absorbed one because of the city’s deficiencies. Common sense would dictate the additional cost imposed on Museum Square – one not anticipated at the time of the original sale agreement – should be the burden of the city not the project.

And that’s exactly what is now being contemplated.  For the Scottsdale Progress to write there are likely to be concerns about such a compromise – without citing any such concerns – is to become an editorialist in a news story.  And that’s a journalistic don’t.

Of course the city should proceed with such a construct.  Consider the inanity of blowing up this deal over $1 million because of its own doing rather than realize the reward of $25 million plus from the sale of this land as well as the ongoing economic impact and Arts District area stimulus cited above.

Proceeding apace is wise policy, smart politics and real progress, no matter what the Scottsdale Progress wrongly tries to stir up.