Last night’s council worksession on the Quality Inn-site development was noteworthy for the nearly-complete absence of critical thinking skills exercised by anyone in attendance.
City Manager Scott Somers appears to have been appointed an honorary member of the Terrapin Development Company’s board of directors. And if he hasn’t, he should be. He could hardly have put forward a more-favorable picture of the Quality Inn project, whose financial foundation appears to be so anemic, only massive taxpayer subsidies can save it. The project appears to be less financially-stable than a house of cards built in a wind tunnel.
This isn’t a public amenity. It is a 400-unit commercial apartment building, pointedly and proudly noted as being “market rate” housing, hardly a category of development College Park is in any shortage of, and certainly not one that should require any additional taxpayer intervention to support.
400 units, at, let’s say, $1800 a month, comes to a gross take of well over $8,000,000 per year, even before any retail space leases have been taken into account. That’s quite a haul, for a project to require an additional 15 years of 50%-75% tax abatements from both the City and the County.
If the financials for a development project don’t work out, without piles of cash being handed to the developer, that’s what we call a bad deal. This is a bad deal. A bad deal for taxpayers, and a bad deal for the City.
I have been critical of the Terrapin Development Company in previous articles. If this debut development deal is typical of what we can expect from TDC in the future, I am not enthusiastic about their possible future development along the Purple Line corridor.
The City Manager went so far as to engage in a little subtle fear-mongering during the meeting, by pointing out that if this project doesn’t happen, we won’t know what we might get in its place. That is correct. But, at the least, it will be able to pass the most basic test of a development project: The ability to make financial sense. This is not that kind of project, unfortunately.