Posted: December 14, 2007
The redevelopment of the North Barstow Street District in Eau Claire has been a roller coaster of a story. First, Phoenix Parkside, LLC, (PPL) agreed to revitalize the two-block area in April of this year. However, due to a number of obstacles, the $9.7 million project was put on hold until this past November. After the delay, the City of Eau Claire Redevelopment Authority (RDA) decided to not extend the contractual deadline, which opened the door for another entity to negotiate an agreement with the city. The competing development group, Riverside Partners III, LLC, consisting of local business owners who have a proven track record in economic development, was selected to replace PPL to take ownership of the plan. This week, the city council and RDA reversed course and rehired the original development group.
I do not know what crow tastes like nor do I know what it feels like to get egg in my face. But in my November 9th editorial in The Bottom Line, I endorsed the Riverfront Partners proposal and chided the city council for not approving the plan. I was under the impression from talking with city officials that the PPL agreement was a dead deal.
Eau Claire City Council Member Brandon Buchanan sent me a letter that outlined how wrong I was to assume that the Riverfront Partners plan was the best option for the city to pursue. He reminded me that the city council could face legal action from PPL and that the city council was doing what was in the best interest of concerned taxpayers. In fact, in my personal column, I accused the city council of having a "lack of judgment " by not approving the competing development agreement. For the time being, I will admit that I was wrong.
I am not sure if the threatened legal action by PPL forced the city to reconsider the RDA's decision to approve the Riverfront Partners plan or if PPL was finally able to convince its lender that its original deal with the city needed the support necessary so that the competition would not assume ownership of the project. Either way, the end result is that downtown redevelopment is going to proceed as originally planned this past spring.
I received numerous messages about this issue. Many local business owners agreed with my assessment that promoted the Riverfront Partners plan, mostly because the owners who comprise Phoenix Parkside were not familiar names within the local development community. But, now that the city has approved the PPL plan, I wish them the best of luck. Now I need to find out what to eat with crow, although I think an egg in my face would be easier to stomach.