After a decade of work and spending at least $50 million of taxpayer money, the University Place Town Center project demands to be formally investigated.
This very risky commercial project funded by amateur politicians, who had access to local, state, federal and special district money, is one of the best examples of public waste in the nation.
The most recent example of public malfeasance is the simple lease deal negotiated with a coffeehouse, the sole paying tenant occupying Town Center. In this case, the coffeehouse lease is suspect since it is so cheap and the real estate brokerage commissions nearly exceed the lease income.
Based on The News Tribune’s own coverage (6-23), the city paid $54,000 in commissions, but the coffeehouse is only paying $800 a month in rent. This means city officials paid the equivalent of 5½ years in commissions to their favorite real estate broker, even though the coffeehouse’s lease is only for five years.
Given the dismal record for this project, UP city officials did not net any profit for the city since they paid it all out in commissions. So far, the people who received commissions on this project over the last decade have fared much better than taxpayers.
Given UP’s limited financial resources, close scrutiny by outside bond agencies and the huge public expenditures on this failed project, it is time to call for a formal outside investigation into the UP Town Center. The taxpayers deserve answers.