Thursday, January 11, 2007

Come Sweet Cash, Indeed

Like others, I was excited to hear ND was finally going to create a more college-y atmosphere in the areas immediately surrounding campus. In addition to improving town-gown relations, it represented an opportunity to create stability in the Northeast Neighborhood.

I read with interest the plan to develop Eddy Street Commons, a mixed-use area with 85,000 square feet of retail space along with townhouses, condominiums, and a hotel. The location proximate to ND stadium made this development, to me, very attractive. My wife and I discussed trying to get one of the residential slots in a combination usage/investment plan. A chance to get new construction close to campus in a thriving area? With all due respect to those mortgage guys, THAT is the biggest no-brainer in the history of Earth.

But I should have known better than to believe this project would go off without a hitch, because once again, Notre Dame has proven it can't allow a penny to pass near it without trying to squeeze every last hair follicle from Lincoln's head.

According to some folks in town and on campus, the development is on hold right now because a couple members of the Notre Dame Board of Trustees have decided ND should make a certain profit on the sale of the land on which this development will occur. The price they seek, according to these folks, is "unrealistic for the South Bend marketplace". If the project went through for the sale price these Trustees want, the rents required to cover costs would be outside the range that can usually be secured in that area. As a result, the project isn't going anywhere right now and won't until the price is more reasonable.

In other words, S.O.S. from the C.S.C., leaving us all S.O.L.

It's hard to believe a school with a $4.5 billion (thanks for the corrections yesterday, guys) endowment that just upped the donation levels for booster programs and regained its spot as the top money-making athletic department in the universe can't let a project that will better both the community and the campus proceed because they're not wringing every last nickel out of the deal.

But as the commercials say, this is Notre Dame, and the vision of Ebeneezer Scrooge in a leather football helmet has been de rigeur there for decades. And while the already-rich hold out for what is due Caesar, the properties sit abandoned and useless to everyone and the development project slips further and further down the calendar.

If I live to be a thousand years old, I won't understand how ND find so many ways to waste its money, all while crying poor. If it's not postponements of the JC renovations or wild tuition increases or building cost overruns or construction budget foul-ups or poor project planning, it's a dozen other things.

These are the kinds of stupid things I was hoping Fr. Jenkins and John Affleck-Graves would have fixed by now. Apparently, they're still a little busy figuring out the Vagina Monologues while the BOT holds out its change purse.

Oh well. Guess we'll look in Granger.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

They did figure out, and permitted, the Vagina Monologues.

No clue what the hell they're doing now.

1/11/2007 10:13:00 AM  
Blogger IrishOutsider said...

Considering the VM is the squeaky wheel, it got the grease.

This is the first I've heard of these halt in development, and it certainly is cause for concern. If anything, the school should have considered the goodwill in speeding along this process.

1/11/2007 10:30:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So Notre Dame is greedy because they aren't selling land for a price that will make investing in the development a good investment for you?

I can't believe Notre Dame would quash the purely-noble intentions of developers like that by thinking of money.

1/11/2007 10:46:00 AM  
Blogger El Kabong said...

It's not a question of being a "good investment for me". It's not guaranteed I'd be able to participate in it to begin with.

The development is going to be good for ND and good for the neighborhood. They've been trying to do this for years. And it's being held up because some trustees want an above-market price for the land. That's not right.

1/11/2007 10:52:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Holding up the deal to squeeze an above-market price will kill the deal by making it a bad investment for anybody. That's just stupid. Of course it's about money, but for a deal to work it's got to make money for everybody. If ND wants too big of a piece of the action, everyone else involved will get squeezed out, because the South Bend real estate market will set the upper limit of money available for the end product. If ND wants too much, then there's nothing in it for the developer. Dumb.

1/11/2007 10:56:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What indication do you have that the people on the Board holding this up are CSC's?

1/11/2007 11:11:00 AM  
Blogger El Kabong said...

I don't. The CSC's run the Board of Fellows, which run the Board of Trustees. If they wanted it to move forward, it would move forward.

1/11/2007 11:16:00 AM  
Anonymous concerned domer said...

Like so many ND plans, this sounds like something really great that will be largely out of reach for the scores of alumni who want to buy in. I would be willing to bed, ElK, that neither you nor I would ever come close to participating. If it ever goes through, I suspect that real estate purchases will be made available first to major donors who will undoubtedly buy several units each for entertaining guests on football weekends. I can't imagine the high-rollers aren't growing weary of the Morris Inn.

I also get a sneaking suspicion that the HOA rules will be something to see . . . can you imagine the developer allowing units to be rented to ND undergrads? I wouldn't be surprised if football weekend rental was prohibited, given the opening of the condo hotel downtown.

1/11/2007 11:29:00 AM  
Anonymous building for Mary said...

In all that is said here there is no detail or proof of any of the claims made. Are you going to provide some meat on this mythical bone or not. What cost overruns,construction budget foul-ups or poor project planning are you referring to? Careful of those in the know.

1/11/2007 12:36:00 PM  
Blogger El Kabong said...

PAC was tens of millions of dollars over budget ... could have funded the JC redo with the money they wasted there.

Changes to the PAC design were made after construction had begun.

The planned convention center by St. Mary's Lake is still stuck in the mud (literally).

Items left out of the Stadium reconstruction means a new project now for tens of millions more than it would have cost then.

I'm always very careful of "those in the know", which is why I only talk about things I get from people I've known for a long time and trust.

For example, I didn't even ask if the BOT guys holding the project up are associated with other developers who weren't selected for the project. Hmmmmmmmmmm....

1/11/2007 12:41:00 PM  
Blogger Jim said...


Cash. Strictly. Cash.

1/11/2007 04:58:00 PM  
Anonymous building for Mary said...

I think if you're going to put something out there you have a responsibility to make sure it is accurate. The fact that you trust someone doesn;t make them factually correct. Unfortunately some people believe everything they read.

"PAC was tens of millions of dollars over budget ..."
Fact: It was less than $10 M over on bid day and at completion was only 2/3 of that had been recouped in savings.

"Changes to the PAC design were made after construction had begun"
Fact: Changes after the start saved the 2/3 of the overage. No increases were due to these changes. If that's the implication your wrong.

"The planned convention center by St. Mary's Lake is still stuck in the mud (literally)"
Do you know why?
Fact: Don't say mud because it had nothing to do with delaying the project.

"Items left out of the Stadium reconstruction means a new project now for tens of millions more than it would have cost then"
The project was an expansion not a "reconstruction". They mean two completely different things. Should it have been a reconstruction..........probably. Fact: Everything costs more today than it did in the mid 90's. "Tens of millions" seems to be a popular figure. Can you give us details on the current stadium thoughts and the cost associated?

Monologues at ND is an unfortunate mistake.

1/11/2007 08:14:00 PM  
Blogger El Kabong said...

For some clarification on my last response about the PAC:

The project originally was budgeted at $20m. It ended up costing more than twice that.

Construction started without a firm blueprint, and they ended up making substantial changes after construction started, including adding space for the Shakespeare folks. That cost money.

They fast-tracked the project and didn't do proper soil analysis before construction started. So when it turned out the site was an old dump and a lot of "interesting" stuff had to be removed just to get to the bedrock, that ended up costing a lot more as well.

The project was screwed up from the get-go.

1/12/2007 03:10:00 PM  
Blogger oaknd1 said...

i haven't read all the comments, so forgive me if this is covered already but how can you report that a couple of BOT members are insisting on a profit in the sale of the land and then turn around and blame the C.S.C. for the hold up? how is that fair to the C.S.C.?

2/05/2007 10:12:00 AM  
Blogger El Kabong said...

It is covered already -- read the comment from 1/11 at 11:16am.

2/05/2007 10:57:00 AM  

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