Phoenix's agreement to give a $100 million handout to a shopping mall development in north Phoenix was struck down as illegal.
A major economic-development agreement between Phoenix and the CityNorth development has been ruled unconstitutional, meaning the project may not grow into the once-envisioned second downtown on the city's north side.
The Arizona Court of Appeals said Tuesday that the $97.4 million agreement violates the gift clause of the Arizona Constitution, which prohibits governments from granting money or credit to private entities in most cases.
In 2007, the city agreed to give the developer half the sales-tax revenue from the site. The developer, among other provisions, agreed to denser construction and to provide free parking and special spaces for park-and-ride use.
Excellent news. This handout was engineered in a fairly smart bit of rent-seeking on the developer's part. There are two competing shopping mall development sites about a mile apart in a wealthy area along highway 101. The two sites are close, but on different sides of the Scottsdale-Phoenix border, so the developers managed to get Phoenix to pony up tons of taxpayer swag out of fear that stores like Nordstrom would move to the Scottsdale development (more here). The parking subsidy came in at around $30,000 per parking space, and the only public benefit was supposedly that other locals could use the lot, though there are no other structures not within this particular development in walking distance of the proposed lot. Here is the enormous downside that Phoenix now faces for not being able to hand $100 million to the developers:
Representatives of the Thomas J. Klutznick Co. declined interviews but issued a prepared statement saying that, without the agreement, they will be forced to cut the density of the project.
Less density would mean fewer shops, restaurants, hotels and offices and fewer jobs, the statement said.
The company said a "less capital-intensive design" would include surface parking lots covering more than half the development. It also warned that the project will face delays.
Uh, okay. I think I will survive. Their problem is they wanted the taxpayer-funded garage so that they could convert surface lots in their plan to more buildings they could rent or sell. Boohoo. Either it makes economic sense, and they can pony up their own money, or not. Speaking personally, fighting Christmas shopping traffic, I am just fine with lower density shopping.