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Columbia County Observer

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Lake City

Blanche Saga Continues: $14,000,000 financing remains unexplained

Wendell Johnson's Blanche Project: Where's the Beef?

LAKE CITY, FL – City Manager Wendell Johnson and others have claimed that the future of downtown Lake City rests with the renovation of the Blanche Hotel, a City landmark that had fallen on hard times years ago. It was ignored by the City and City management, including City Manager Johnson until the Observer exposed that it had turned into a death trap.

The City Manager Has Been Making an Effort

For the last four years City Manager Johnson has been making an effort to find someone to renovate the Blanche. His efforts were unsuccessful until IDP came up with its proposal, which while it includes many pretty graphics, is lacking on the specifics of financing.

New construction cost for a three story commercial 79,600 sq. ft. office building is estimated at $5,509,326. The cost per sq. ft. is $69.21

IDP has given an estimate of $14,000,000 to renovate the Blanche's 79,600 sq. ft., which is $175.88 per sq. ft.

Construction estimating link is here.

The City has circulated to its insiders two pieces of literature.

The Observer asked to be put on the Blanche circulation list, was told it was added. It never received the following information.

The Blanche Master Plan Bullet Presentation, "The Hotel Blanche, A Key Downtown Catalyst Project": Disregarding the editorial comments and sales pitcheyness, the one page piece presents useful information.

IDP's "Hotel Blanche Package": As expected, the presentation contains cool, well done graphics. Financial information is pregnantly lacking.

There have been no discussions regarding the source of retail tenants.

The lack of a supermarket in walking distance and the non-existence of any kind of public transportation inhibits downtown residential occupancy.

According to City Manager Johnson, as of December 16, 2014, the Blanche was "a little over $100,000" in arrears of its taxes.

Monday night

Monday night, at 5:30 pm in City Hall, the Blanche saga continues. The developers will be on-hand.

Comments (to add a comment go here)

On Feb. 22, 2015, radio show host Terry Rauch wrote:

Borrowing money with no purpose in mind. Sounds like our nation and their 18 trillion dollar debt. Plus it sets off red flags everywhere.

Here we have a business district design around 1850(?), surrounded by homes with no major traffic feed to it. It cannot expand because there's no room and it falling apart because of the age and neglect of the buildings. Businesses leave that area and nothing new comes in to it. Why? I have no clue, I'm sure there is a good reason. I'll even go on a limb and say most likely it's because there is no parking for the employees, not to mention customers.

The city is still kicking around the idea of keeping the Blanch Hotel renovation alive. A $14,000,000 project that for some crazy reason, the city wants to fix. With no (nothing) parking spaces in the plans. Did I add that most all of the businesses in the Blanche have left. Years ago. Most likely because of the building's condition and no parking.

I still remember a millionaire telling me once, if you don't have parking, nobody will come.

My suggestion: Make the owners of these buildings supply adequate parking for existing buildings, bring these building up to code, tear them down (at the owners expense) or buy them out at a fair market price and resale the property after the city removes the building. Nobody is going to give you money to make your place look good if the problem is not fixed. That's common sense.

Let private developers buy the land and build what they think will work. That way the city has no "skin in the deal" if it fails. Work with these developers, don't nick pick them. What you have now isn't working.

Residents of Lake City, I have no skin in this game. I really don't care what you do. Raise your taxes to pay for this boondoggle or put your foot down on the whole 9 yards. The choice is clearly yours alone.

Remember, Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Lake City, quit being insane.

Terry Rauch - Rauch Report Radio Show

 

This work by the Columbia County Observer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.

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The CRA Master Plan is available here. (25Mb)

 
Links to more Blanche stories:

• May 9, 2015  Frisina Swings the Vote, Blanche Ducks a TKO – Lake City, County, Developer Regrouping (Part II)

• May 8, 2015  Last Night The Blanche Ducks a TKO – Lake City, County, Developer Regrouping (Part I)

• April 21, 2015  Blanche Hotel Developer Equity Skyrockets 850%: What is The Real Investment?

• March 11, 2015  Blanche Hotel: 6 Months & Counting – $14,000,000 Letter of Intent May Be Next Month

• Feb. 24, 2015  Blanche Hotel Train of Advisors Pulled into City Hall Last Night: Lots of Pictures - Not Much New

• Feb. 21, 2015  Blanche Saga Continues: $14,000,000 financing remains unexplained

• Feb. 3, 2015  Blanche $15 mil Renovation: CM Johnson Playing it Close to the Vest, "You'll know when I know"

• December 18, 2014 (Part II)  The Blanche: Johnson & Decker want inclusion "Anybody that wants a seat will have one"

• December 17, 2014 (Part I)  Lake City's Blanche Hotel: $15,000,000 Renovation Discussion Off & Running

• December 4, 2014  Renovation of Blanche Hotel on the Launching Pad:  Will everyone have a chance to participate?

• November 7, 2014  Lake City's Last Chance Hotel, the Blanche – Plans On the Way to the Columbia County 5

• November 4, 2014  City Manager Johnson: Working on a Plan to Raise the Blanche Hotel From the Dead

• March 4, 2010 The Blanche Hotel - The seventh inning stretch

 • Mar 1, 2010 The Blanche Group Bailout
Who are they? Where are they?


 • Mar 1, 2010  A Blanche Investor Interview

 • Feb 27, 2010  Structural Evaluation of the Blanche Hotel Now in the hands of the City Council

 • Oct 21, 2009 Conversation with Steve Smith -Blanche Investment Trust

 • Oct 21, 2009 City steps up • Councilman Hill wants slow down

 • Oct 21, 2009 The visit • The fire inspection

 • Oct 21, 2009 Go to Photo Gallery

 • Oct 9, 2009 City Steps Up To The Plate
Offers to buy Landmark Blanche Hotel