Written by Mike Martin
Gartner notes "additional financial problems" in blight-related REDI email
COLUMBIA, 4/11/12 (Beat Byte) -- Citizens puzzled that a tax abatement program designed for manufacturers would include downtown historic and residential neighborhoods may have an explanation in an email about continued financial problems at the Tiger Hotel.
Downtown, North Central, and much of Columbia's university district are included in a so-called "blight designation" map showing areas eligible for assistance from a so-called Enhanced Enterprise Zone (EEZ).
CID director Carrie Gartner
strongly hinted that REDI directors Mike Brooks
and Bernie Andrews
consider adding hotels to the list of EEZ-eligible businesses. The CID is a quasi-governmental agency with downtown-area oversight, and Gartner sits on the EEZ board.
"Confidentially, I've been hearing that the Tiger Hotel may be having some additional financial problems
," Gartner wrote in a September email titled Hotels and EEZs.
"I realize that hotels were eliminated from the list of approved NAICS Codes
and the Tiger may not be considered a 'new' project, but I wanted you to have this piece of information prior to sending the list of eligible categories
to your board."
Though it is unclear if Gartner or the CID view EEZ as a replacement incentive
for TIF financing, TIFs could become politically unacceptable if the Tiger Hotel project falters. TIFs already have a checkered history in Columbia. The Odle family canceled a TIF-financed mixed-used project
in 2009. Tiger Hotel owners received the incentive
that same year, and twice had to request TIF extensions from the Columbia City Council before selling to Laverick.
The hotel is still not open three years after TIF financing.
After explaining the Tiger had "exhausted" its historic preservation tax credits, Gartner explained her dilemma to the two REDI chiefs. "The Tiger is a huge historic building in the middle of our downtown and as such, we're forced to deal with it in a way we wouldn't if it were a new development having trouble getting off the ground," she wrote.
Laverick meanwhile has sent mixed messages about when the Tiger will be completed. The Columbia Business Times reported last month that 15 of 62 rooms are now available.