The residents of Statesboro and Bulloch County are a relatively conservative lot. We don’t necessarily have a problem with “change,” it just needs to be well conceived and carried out in a deliberate and thoughtful manner.
If the number of phone calls I have gotten is any indication of public sentiment, then many of you are uncomfortable with the most recent moves of our city manager in conjunction with our city council. My perception is that many city and county residents feel that some moves are at best unexplained.
The one that I have been asked the most about is the purchase of the Galleria building directly east of City Hall. There seems to be some misunderstanding about the purchase itself, so let me clarify.
The Downtown Statesboro Development Authority purchased the building for $750,000 – which was $100,000 less than it was appraised for according to Allen Muldrew, executive director of the DSDA. That is the amount of the mortgage, and it is for 20 years. The city of Statesboro is the guarantor on the note, but is not making the payment. That is the responsibility of the DSDA.
That leads to the next point of clarification – what is the monthly payment and is the building paying for itself. The monthly payment is $5,000. The DSDA is receiving about $3700 a month in rent from its “private” tenants, and the city of Statesboro is paying rent to house a portion of the gas and water departments.
Muldrew said the net result is that all of the combined rent from both private and public tenants is covering the mortgage note payment each month. “The gas and water departments needed a short term lease of some office space somewhere while a building of theirs was being worked on,” he said. “We have the space in the building, so it really worked out well. It is a six month lease.”
So, for now, it would appear that the building is not requiring taxpayer support. Next question, what about six months or a year from now?
“We are actually working through finalizing some very big plans for the building,” Muldrew said. “When I say big plans, I mean a long-term, solid tenant that will make a difference in downtown. It is something that I have felt for sometime that our downtown needed and could really benefit from. I think when we are able to announce the new tenant, everyone will be very pleased.”
Muldrew said he anticipates that a portion of the building will eventually house the city’s information technology department and be used as record storage. “It is our intent that tenant leases will generate enough to pay for the building, and that the city will not have to pay rent for the space,” he said. “They are the guarantor on the note, and we hope to be able to let them have this space.”
I asked Muldrew why he thought it was so important in this economy to “step out” and buy a building. “I am not going to sit here and tell you that there is no risk involved,” he said. “But, it is a great building, in a great location, and it will allow us to go out and seek the kinds of tenants that will help downtown continue to grow and evolve. Sometimes, the market alone doesn’t bring the best results. I feel like this private-public type development will be very successful. I hope that it will allow us to turn a corner of sorts.”
I think I am like most people in that for me, I don’t know that I am completely comfortable with the city assuming additional risk when it is claiming serious budget shortfalls, and decreased revenue. They just don’t seem to go hand-in-hand. And frankly, I wasn’t all that jazzed with the after-the-fact announcement that the building had been purchased.
However, every time that I drive through the city of Savannah, I see vibrancy that is the direct result of the cooperation between city government, academic entities, and private industry. If any one of those three had not been “on board”, the bustling Savannah we see today would not be.
So I say, let’s give this a chance, and hope that this is what Muldrew says that it is – the beginnings of a truly revitalized downtown.