Columbia, SC — There is only one reason the city of Columbia is buying the Palmetto Compress warehouse: It has unfettered access to the taxpayers’ money. The city politicians have no business acumen (see water department failures) or investment savvy (see AirSouth) or development expertise (see hotel development failure or CanalSide).
The invitation for the city to join is similar to the cool kids going out on the town and inviting the socially awkward and unattractive friend. Why? He’s a trust baby and always buys everyone’s food and beverages.
As Warren Bolton pointed out in his Sunday column, there needs to be a list of important buildings that warrant preserving, based on some reasonable criteria.
The city simply cannot finance every 50-year-old building that someone gets weepy about.
If we taxpayers are not going to be stuck, again, the city needs to be what it can be, and that’s the bank.
A bank listens to the proposal by the buyer, determines whether the project has some degree of plausibility, makes sure the bank has no back-end liability if the project fails and charges a rate of interest commensurate with the risk of failure.
The bank does not buy the property and hope for the best (“if we build it, they will come”). The bank does not act as a facilitator among the various proposers. The bank does not step in when an inevitable bump comes in the road. The bank does not negotiate or establish a fair price for the property; that is done by the marketplace.
If Columbia just has to be involved in the preservation of a warehouse built between World War I and the Roaring ’20s, it should do it wisely.
James M. Holloway Jr.