The city owned a parking lot behind the Ritz-Carlton Towers and across the street from the Opera House until 2001, when the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) took the land by eminent domain.

The BRA then sold the lot to Millennium Partners, developers of the Ritz-Carlton Towers, who said they wanted to build an office tower on the land, but then changed their minds and said they were going to build condos. (There were questions at the time over whether or not the BRA or Millennium Partners had been honest about their intent, and whether the city got enough money for the land.)

The BRA sold the land for $23 million; Millennium Partners paid the first installment of $13 million – but since then, no money, no building. Meanwhile, Millennium has been collecting all the income from the parking lot. (And, doesn’t pay any taxes, since the BRA is still listed as owner!)

Now, the independent city watchdog Boston Finance Commission fears it is going to happen again, this time with 115 Winthrop Square, the proposed 1,000-foot high office building (aka, “Tommy’s Tower”).

“The biggest problem with the RFP is that it does not comply with the law,â€? said commission Executive Director Jeffrey W. Conley in reference to Chapter 30B, the Uniformed Procurement Procedures Law, which requires an open and fair competition when municipal property is disposed. “The project could be a good deal for the city, but not the way the RFP is written.â€?

If you’re still with me, here’s the problem.

The city owns the lot, just like they did at Hayward Place. The city leases the lot to a private company, who pays just $75,000, annually. The company collects $2.5 million in revenue, each year.

The lease is up, this June. Given that the office building may not be built for several years, the Boston Finance Commission says the city should put the lease out for re-bid.

The way I read the story, the fear is either that the lease will not be re-bid, because the BRA will own the land and not care that they aren’t bringing in any money. Either that, or the Commission fears that the BRA will take ownership and change the lease terms, then keep the money to itself, short-changing the city.

Either way, looks like city taxpayers might be losing out!

Source: Commission Concerned About Tower Proposal – By Thomas Grillo, Boston Business Journal, by way of archBOSTON.com

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