The Monroe Commons TIF was not straightforward. It involved a lot of innovative math to avoid violating the 50 percent limit. There was a large subsidy placed on each condo to pay for the grocery store. The repayment formula was unrealistic to start with, but the Council seems not to have realized that. Yes, the market tanked. Anyone who believed the real estate boom was going to last forever had no business speculating in the market with taxpayer funds. I hope the developer manages to meet the commitment to make up the shortfall.
With regards to Capitol West, the city counted on a sufficient number of condos being sold and added to the property tax rolls. That hasn't yet happened, hence the State Journal reporting "Alexander has no issues with tax payments, but has struggled to sell enough condos to meet obligations for $4.27 million TIF loan."
Overture Center is a huge mess. Its draft budget for 2010-11 has a deficit almost twice as big as MCAD's reserves. Who will make up the shortfall if not the City? The City is also on the hook through 2011 for part of the remaining debt (part of the 2005 refinancing deal). It continues to subsidize the center's operations, much as it did for the Madison Civic Center.
Marc Eisen wrote a terrific story in Isthmus a few years ago on Overture's big mistakes which included this:
Mistake #4: Not programming enough free events. Paul Kosidowski, writing in these pages a few weeks ago, pointed out how crucial the old Crossroads was to the Civic Center for casually pulling the public into the building for children's shows. (It also, I would add, served as a short-cut to traverse the downtown.) The Crossroads functioned surprisingly well as a town square within the building.While Overture's resident community arts groups have indeed increased their offerings (both in number and scale), a number of other community arts groups have struggled.
Overture so far has no similar democratizing feature, and this only adds to complex's hoity-toity stand-offishness. This is not good. Not only because Frautschi dedicated the arts complex to the whole community, but because at some point the community may be asked to dig into its pockets to maintain Overture.
Regarding the library, I did mis-state the facts. I should have said "17 million in TIF for a shiny new $37 million library." $37 million was the total amount that the Council approved in the capital budget for the new library (not the total cost of the proposed Fiore mixed-use project though, which would have been $88 million). I apologize for not spotting the error before I published the post. It will be corrected. I have followed the saga of the proposed downtown library fairly closely.
And I never speculated about the age of Monroe Commons condo residents. I was thinking of the patrons of Trader Joe's, the gourmet grocery store that was the reason for the Monroe Commons TIF. Capitol West was the high-rise condo development I had in mind. Regardless of who lives there, it adds a certain urban energy to the look of our downtown.