Letter: Poor economy demands putting off event center
Ironically, next to the south shore redevelopment series in the Dec. 20 Pioneer, a headline screamed, "Pawlenty cuts LGA, programs." Bemidji and Beltrami County were included in the major payment cuts from the state that were due us on Dec. 26.
On the same date, a headline in the Minneapolis Star Tribune made clear that this was only the "first installment of budget pain (and cuts) yet to come." The article said, "Pawlenty cut more deeply from local governments ... necessary in the face of an economic situation that continues to worsen." The next day it was reported that on "Jan. 6 lawmakers face the more daunting task of a $4.8 billion hole."
The Star Tribune reported three famous marina fronted prominent centers in Boston, New York and Baltimore were put up for sale, "in a desperate attempt to shore up finances." These centers are owned by the company that owns Eden Prairie Center, Knollwood Mall in St. Louis Park, Ridgedale Center in Minnetonka, Apache Mall in Rochester, Crossroads Center in St. Cloud, River Hills Mall in Mankato and a total of 200 such developments in 44 states.
I realize that Bemidji started this great plan for redevelopment with the best intentions for our community, but the fact is that was a long economic time ago. If marina fronted redevelopment properties in these huge metro areas can't make it, we can't justify continuing down this path. Menard's has delayed developing the old Spaulding property because of the economic downturn. Banks are not giving the type of mortgage loans that it would take to buy one of the tower condominiums in this development. Small businesses are faced with going out of business, not starting up new locations like the facilities on the lake.
In 1997, Grand Forks added a city sales tax to fund re-development after the terrible floods. People as far away as Warroad immediately changed their shopping trips to come to Bemidji because that tax made prices in Grand Forks a lot higher. During these hard times, when the common family is struggling, how can we add a local sales tax to pay for a center that the same common family will never use?
I hope our city leaders can see the dismal immediate future in pushing this project through. Let's be realistic and face the fact that now is not the time.