by Sam Hieb
Construction on Greensboro’s proposed $30 million parking deck —which became a campaign issue in the hotly contested 13th District Congressional race, has stalled. Rhino Times editor John Hammer writes:
Last April, when the city settled a lawsuit with Rocky Scarfone and other property owners on South Elm Street over an easement for close to $1 million, the reason for settling the lawsuit was said to be because it was holding up construction.
Now, over six months after that lawsuit was settled, the city is telling a different story about why construction has not begun and that is that the agreement between the city and the developer has not been completed.
People familiar with but not involved in the project say the likely reason the city paid an additional $918,000 to Scarfone and other property owners and made further concessions was not to allow construction to begin but to facilitate the Elm Street Hotel LLC getting its financing in order. They said that having an unsettled lawsuit hanging over the project would make nailing down the financing difficult.
If the actual construction of the parking deck was being delayed because of the Scarfone lawsuit then making a deal may have been the best interest of the city, but if the city paid an additional $918,000 to help the developers to get their financing in order, so they could then negotiate with the city to build the deck, it appears that the city is spending taxpayer dollars to aid developers in getting financing for a project that banks were hesitant to finance.
That last paragraph is important, because the reason why the parking deck was an issue in the campaign between victorious incumbent Rep. Ted Budd and his Democrat challenger Kathy Manning is Manning’s husband is one of the partners in Elm Street Hotel LLC.
Mind you the deck on Elm Street is not the only one going up downtown; further down Friendly Avenue developer (Rhino publisher) Roy Carroll is building a $30 million parking deck that the city will own, with Carroll’s privately owned developments on top of the decks. Ironically—as Hammer notes—negotiations between Carroll and the city briefly broke down earlier this year, but a new deal was reached. Should the Elm Street parking deck deal break down, then Greensboro will have a big hole downtown—and they will begin searching for something to fill it.