It’s not often that titans of business tell it like it is. I about danced a jig last year when Steve Wynn laid out exactly what “uncertainty” means regarding Obama Administration policies. It’s great when very successful people can put a face to words and add credibility, but that can come at a very high cost: since the Obama campaign might root through your personal life to make character attacks instead of engaging on the issues or, far worse, pass policies that specifically hurt your business, it’s understandable why many successful people who are outside of politics wish to stay anonymous.
But someone’s spoken out again against bad business policy, this time right here in WyLiberty’s backyard. It is equal parts sweet and bitter, and it needed to be said.
Phil Herrick, a local developer here in Cheyenne, recently spoke to the Wyoming Business Report about downtown development. In their June issue, WBR put out a supplement “Distinctive Homes of Wyoming” (I could not find an online version) that includes a multi-page article by MJ Clark, “Urban Life Has Appeal for Many.” The article largely praises downtown development across Wyoming, from Laramie to Jackson to Sheridan. But the last section, covering Cheyenne, is rather damning:
You might think that downtown Cheyenne, with all those great old buildings, might be a real hotbed for living “upstairs downtown,” but you’d be wrong.
The problem, according to developer Phil Herrick, is that the city codes are restrictive. Herrick owns the historic Majestic and Paramount Buildings, and his original plan was to develop them for mixed use – with loft apartments above, offices in the middle, and a coffee shop and perhaps a small carry-out grocery store on the ground floor.
“When I bought the building, I had it inspected and they told me that ‘All you need are fire extinguishers and exit signs.’” Herrick told the Business Report. “After I spent a million dollars buying the buildings, they told me I needed sprinklers and all sorts of things – a cost of another half million. If I had known how much trouble it was going to be I would not have bought the buildings.”
During his first year of ownership, Herrick said the buildings cost him an additional $250,000 in upgrades aside from adding sprinklers that he hadn’t planned on needing. “There’s no cash flow in the buildings because I’m constantly having to pay for something I didn’t expect – rather than giving me a few years to get them taken care of, I have to do them all at once.”
A cover story of the June 28 Wyoming Tribune-Eagle details how Cheyenne may buy the downtown “hole,” which has been there for nearly eight years. The property is currently owned partially by the city, and the other part by Capital Management, a Kansas company. The story states “City Councilwoman Amber Ash said finding a developer for the hole may be easier if the property comes under the ownership of one party.”
I try not to be too sarcastic in my blogging, but after reading Herrick’s ordeal with development in Cheyenne, I can only say this to Ms. Ash: sure it will.