7/9/10

The Tabares Question

Economic Development director Ron Davis originally brought the purchase of the Tabares building before the Urban Renewal Board. From the Urban Renewal Board minutes of 09.13.2007:

Ron Davis discussed his application to purchase the Tabares Building for a Highway 50 museum. His proposal is that a non-profit entity, such as Urban Renewal, be the owner of the building. Much discussion was held concerning the condition and safety of the building and the fact that the owner is not willing to allow anyone to inspect the building. The consensus of the Board members was that this building qualifies as blight and Urban Renewal could purchase the building and if it is not possible to rehab, it could be demolished.

Sandra Leonard made a motion, seconded by Rebecca Goodwin, that Urban Renewal purchase the Tabares Building at 8 & 10 East 1st Street for the purchase price of $22,000 with the acknowledgment that it is considered blight. Motion carried with a vote of 6 Yes and 1 No.


Though the minutes do not reflect this, it was specifically mentioned that the building could be turned into a parking lot if nothing else. Note that the motion to purchase acknowledged the 'blight' status of the building.

We have heard a fair amount of talk about how these buildings on First Street can be a draw for AMTRAK passengers, who pass through by the tens of thousands each year. However, given that AMTRAK passengers now spend very little time in La Junta, the building's potential use as a draw for that market would seem to have gone by the boards. The Southwest Chief, for example, is here for only 15 minutes in the morning, and 10 minutes in the evening. That's not a lot of time for tea and crumpets at the Kit Carson, or for browsing the Visitor Center at the Tabares Building, or skating over to The Barista for a coffee much less soup and a sandwich. The lack of time spent by train passengers seems to have been lost on those who keep harping on all those 'visitors' as a market. The AMTRAK passenger list is a non-player in downtown development 'issues', unless someone wants to hawk weenies from a pushcart.

So what's the deal? Another Kit Carson, where we try to rake in piles of all that "free Federal money" in the form of grants? From whence does that "free Federal money" come? Does Barack H. Obama just print it up and hand it out by the wheelbarrow load? Or does it come from your pockets and mine?

Why would we want to invest all that "free Federal money" (or "free state money" for that matter) in a building that is not seen as a viable business opportunity by America's entrepreneurs? Why would a private charitable organization want to waste money given by donors on a building project that is not likely to go anywhere? If it were, if there were a real market, business would be investing in it.

But there is no market, not with the current thinking and approaches to problem solution. So why waste increasingly scarce fiscal resources on it?

Tear them both down, the Tabares and the Kit Carson, and make empty lots out of them. There may not be any visitors to park in them, but the blight will be gone, and we can always stick a bunch of planters in them.