Right now, as I eat my lunch, the Industrial Development Board of the City of New Orleans is holding a public hearing on the issuance of a variety of bonds. Some of these are “Gulf Opportunity Zone Revenue Bonds,” so I guess that’s some of that federal Katrina money. Some of this stuff I knew about already and don’t necessarily object to. But one item in particular caught my eye:

1. not exceeding $4,500,000 Gulf Opportunity Zone Revenue Bonds (Carrollton Revitalization, L.L.C. Project) Series 2007, to finance the construction of an approximately 15,000 sq. ft. retail store at the northwest intersection of S. Carrollton Ave. and S. Claiborne Ave. in New Orleans, Louisiana, the initial owner of which will be COCRF Investor I, L.L.C. for the ultimate benefit of Carrollton Revitalization, L.L.C. and the expected initial tenant, Walgreens;

In other words, a $4.5 million tax break to build a Walgreen’s. (Edit: I probably misstated this severely. See the comments, and please forgive my financial ineptitude.)

That’s small potatoes compared to the $67 million G.O. Zone bond for the Film Factory. But a world class film studio, owned and operated by a Louisiana company, can be justified as positive economic development. (Whether it lives up to its promise is another question, of course.) I don’t see how a retail drug store, part of a national chain, is a wise use of recovery dollars.

Especially considering Walgreen’s has been such a bad neighbor.

Walgreens at Carrollton and Earhart

Interestingly, today’s hearing is being held in the local law offices of Adams & Reese. Interestingly, Adams & Reese is Walgreen’s lawyer.

I’ll be the first to admit my grasp of economics is tenuous at best. Maybe this is all legitimate. But it seems kind of funny to me. Funny peculiar, not funny ha-ha.

Anyway, I just thought my friends in the rest of the country would like to know how we are spending your tax dollars to rebuild our city.

  1. Two friends have already responded to me via e-mail. One guy up in Indiana says:

    “If these bonds operate the way our bonds do this isn’t a $4.5 million tax break. It is a break but what it does is let Walgreens borrow their 4.5 by using tax free bonds, which means that whoever buys the bonds doesn’t pay income tax on the interest they collect from loaning Walgreens the moola.

    “They may call them by that fancy name but my guess is they are one and the same as our tax-free bonds. Same-same that movie bit. There are some of these things that can be sold where the government acts as a guaranteer (sp) for the cash if the corporation folds and I would really be worried about that, but I don’t know that is the case here.”

    And a friend here in New Orleans says:

    “The GO Zone bonds carry a favorable interest rate. I have zero problem with companies trying to participate in that federal program locally, because most of the GO Zone capacity is currently being absorbed by projects in Baton Rouge (which is a virtual boomtown without the fed govt.’s help thanks to new residents and Katrina related tax infusions). As far as I’m concerned, Walgreens is welcome to sop some of that up for us. Better them than the Shaw Group using it to build a country club in West Feliciana.”

  2. re: “the initial owner of which will be COCRF Investor I, L.L.C. for the ultimate benefit of Carrollton Revitalization, L.L.C.”

    Since elsewhere you ask how to elevate the discourse, you go back to finding out who Investor I is. Find the ties between the two, and loosen the knots.

  3. Aloha! Haven’t checked in here yet, but have been lurking since you made The Speech (I happened to be in town that day). Could you make some more like that, please?

    That was my old corner. In addition to groceries, and innumerable bottles of K&B private-label booze (this was around 1990), I even acquired a roommate at that corner! (he was the guy selling tamales from a cart out front)

    And so, I ask: Where the (bleep) is the grocery store? You remember, the one JayBatt the Hut was counting on to save his political hide? If any Carrollton people have some sort of Walgreens jones, can’t they just go to the one at Riverbend? (which itself displaced a Winn-Dixie) “Other people get one-hour photo processing to live, but in Carrollton, we live to get one-hour photo processing” doesn’t quite cut it.

    I was just thinking that that corner would have been a no-brainer as a “Re-New Area” in Blakely’s recent plan. Apparently that would have been a bit too aboveboard…

  4. The City Should fine tenants for BLIGHT not just the property owner. The city would be wise to hold both tenant and owners feet to the fire. Otherwise, the city may scare people away from owning commercial property.

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