Perhaps you heard the news: "Richardson Purchases Property On Central Expressway". That property is home to the Continental Inn. That makes you, Richardson resident, a hotel owner. But not for long. The hotel is a drag on redevelopment and is being demolished.
We can hope that the city council has a plan that's unfolding here, maybe a developer waiting in the wings to step forward and buy that property from the city (and maybe others nearby) and announce plans to build a new hotel/shopping/restaurant/residential complex that will spur a renaissance for all of southwest Richardson. We can hope that, because otherwise, Richardson just spent $2.2 million for a vacant lot and a dream.
After the jump, a few questions about the deal.
First, during the discussions about redevelopment of the West Spring Valley Corridor (of which this property is a part), I don't recall discussion about whether the city would get involved as a property owner in that redevelopment. Zoning changes, yes, some creative tax financing, maybe, but buying up land itself? Maybe I just missed it. Maybe a $2.2 million land investment in southwest Richardson is considered too common to make a big deal about, so the discussion slipped by me. I wonder what else slipped by me. How much other money is earmarked for land purchases in this or other areas of Richardson?
Second, where is that money coming from? I followed the budget discussions last year in some detail, although I admit my eyes glazed over now and then. Just a few weeks ago, the city council held a budget retreat to start planning for next year's budget. I don't remember there being mentioned $2.2 million in the budget for buying a hotel. I can understand why you don't want to negotiate real estate deals in public, but shouldn't there have been at least some public discussion about a line item in the budget for investing in real estate? Again, maybe I just missed it. Maybe there was a $2.2 million line item in the budget all along. Or maybe it's an even bigger number. If it's there and I missed it, bad on me.
Third, Richardson just made a big deal over starting planning for redevelopment of the Main Street / Central Expressway Corridor. Technically, the Continental Inn falls just outside that corridor, but, still, it's right on Central Expressway. If the city just spent $2.2 million on the property, you want to believe that the city has a pretty good idea what's going to go there. Whatever that plan is, as a practical matter it's going to narrow our options for the rest of the Central Expressway Corridor. This purchase kind of stacks the deck for that planning. It kind of makes the exercise of gathering public input look like, well, just an exercise, full of motherhood and apple pie questions but leaving out anything of real consequence, like, for example, "Should the city consider purchasing, say, the Como Motel?"
I hate to sound negative. I'm thrilled to hear that the old Continental Inn is being bulldozed. I just wish that the city council hadn't surprised me with the bill.