There is an old expression that says, “The opera is not over until the fat lady sings”.
I first heard the phrase about 40 years ago when Chicago Bulls basketball coach Dick Motta warned fans about the Bulls’ chances of winning a championship.
Years later, one of my favorite philosophers, Yogi Berra, shortened it to “It’s not over until it’s over,” as many northern Iowa residents think of progress in redeveloping the inner city.
Agreements are being made, financing is being drawn up and documents are being signed for the construction of a new hotel in the city center and the conversion of the Southbridge Mall.
That is all well and good and cause for optimism. Congratulations to City Administrator Aaron Burnett, Mayor Bill Schickel, City Council members, and all private partners for sticking with us. At last week’s council meeting there was indeed talk of “closing” a deal. When was the last time we heard this term on a project in the city center?
It’s not over yet – but it seems to be getting closer.
To all of this, there are a few things to keep in mind:
- The mall will be in new ownership and the back taxes will be paid in full from the sales proceeds. This is answered with great gratitude by County Treasurer Pat Wright, who has had to deal with “the checks in the mail” from the current owner for several years. Also, property taxes for the mall were to be used to fund other parts of the River City Renaissance Project. That will be possible when the sale is complete and taxes are paid.
- David Rachie is the developer of both Gatehouse Capital’s hotel project in Dallas and the mall conversion project for SBMC-LLC in Minneapolis. So he is the contact person for many unfinished business.
- Hollywoodland-Mason City is the proposed name for the entertainment center that will replace the Southbridge Mall. Bowling alleys, go-karts, theaters, retail stores, and dining options are planned.