Electric Works Anti-Climax

By Jim Sack

Josh Parker and Kevan Biggs were to have been the dramatic stars of last night’s city council meeting, expected to level an ultimatum to council – more money or Electric Works folds.

Instead, Parker, his right foot bouncing nervously under the table, expressed appreciation to council for their support, to the mayor for his support, and said his team would close on financing the in mid-November, just after the election.

In the days leading up to the odd presentation calls had issued forth from the EW support system to turn out the masses for the meeting. One older man was, indeed, there with his “We Support Electric Works” sign propped against his knees. Other than EW staff and their team of lawyers that was it.

What followed was a sober and somewhat chastened presentation by Parker who was flanked by a mute Biggs. Instead of the enthusiasm and confidence of previous meetings Parker looked drained. He alluded to the complexity of putting together the multi-hundred million dollar plan that has many, many, many lenders, oodles of constituents, red tape in bulk, and more than a few skeptics, but which also enjoys the broad support and dreams of the general community. Push is now coming to shove on the project. Parker and his team have not met their leasing goals demanded of lenders in banks to secure critical, make-or-break financing. Therein lies the rub.

Certainly, the deputy mayor has been a hard sell. His budget for neighborhood improvements from alleys to sidewalks to replacing street lights and repaving streets is threatened by the great capital demands EW presents. Our share, the community share of the EW project is somewhere around $100 million when all the budget lines are added up. If your project is delayed EW may well be the reason.

And, the mayor, to his credit, has not rushed naively to lavishing public money on the project or to committing future millions based on but promises. He has expected the ink to have dried on all component agreements.

Council also has done its due diligence in scores of meetings involving reams of spreadsheets and pages of expert analysis.

The roar of voices chiding both city government and council for not providing a full throated chorus of pollyannish support for the project crashed on the shore last night when Parker all but said the developers had 1) been overly optimistic in their promises, and 2) had not factored in exogenous factors that have delayed funding approval, such as Trump’s shutdown of the federal government. Parker said his team will now focus on leasing and has hired a team to beat the bushes for tenants.

Meanwhile, in the back of the room, Stacy Smith, chair of the Legacy Committee all but watched a $500,000 grant to Science Central go up in smoke because the promised Legacy allocation to EW means there is currently nothing left for

“transformational and catalytic” community projects. She joins the deputy mayor in pointing out that EW is sucking the air ($$$) out of the room with about a 50-50 chance of living up to Parker’s promise of urban renaissance and ROI deluge of new tax dollars.

Parker and Biggs now have to deliver which may explain why Parker’s right foot was tapping away nervously under the table.