We recently editorialized for the preservation of the historic Palmetto Compress warehouse. The city council has since voted to buy the building for future development, but their plans for financing that purchase have met with stiff opposition. First they proposed borrowing the money, then using hospitality tax monies and water/sewer funds…ideas that were both abandoned due to public outcry. Now the plan is to use funds from city employees' health care and retirement reserves.
One critic voiced his concern saying "You have to wonder if it has occurred to anyone that the reason this deal is so difficult to finance may be because it's not a very good deal." The city has a bumpy track record with real estate development, and some claim this is even more speculative than past projects. Many city employees feel they are bearing all the risk with their health care reserves tapped for the purchase.
Now it's up to the Columbia Development Corporation and city leaders to shepherd this admirable but risky preservation project so that it doesn't come back to bite taxpayers.