The rancor erupted again on Monday night during a City Council study session on a Highland development that has vexed it throughout its tenure – this time over a proposed building extension.
Claude Gendreau, owner and promoter of Cardinal Campus, as well as his lawyer, Kymn Harp; and Chief Administrator Jodi Kennedy, appeared before the board asking to extend its construction deadline to October 31, 2025, from July 19, 2022. Gendreau wants the extension because the pandemic has taken all kinds of havoc on its next phase plans, Harp said.
“We had started phase 1 and finished it on time. But then COVID hit, so we were kind of on hiatus,” Harp said. “In our agreement, we have a force majeure clause which gives us an automatic extension. For this reason, we are asking for the two years and three months of COVID that we lost. »
Harp, Kennedy and Gendreau told the council they were working on the next set of office buildings planned for the site when COVID hit; once it did, labor shortages and – even more detrimental – supply chain issues abounded. With office space becoming harder to sell after the pandemic, Gendreau and his team decided building the planned hotel would be the best value for the development, Kennedy said.
Councilman Mark Schocke, R-3, asked if Harp and Kennedy had some sort of paper trail to prove they had worked on the project between then and now so he could better determine how much extra time would be appropriate. Councilman Roger Sheeman, R-5, was less patient with the idea.
“Now you want 10 months for the design (of the hotel)? Seems to me like you could have done that before you came here (to the study session),” said Sheeman, to which Gendreau repeated that they originally worked on office buildings when they changed to speed. “I can understand your costs going up, but you have an agreement with the city. And maybe (the development) isn’t as good as it was in 2018, but you have to now. It may cost you a bit more to finish, but that’s the way of life.
Sheeman also pointed to the extra revenue the city isn’t generating because the $50 million project isn’t complete and the pandemic has largely subsided over the past six months, so there shouldn’t be any. have reason for such a delay.
“Haven’t architects and engineers been working during the pandemic? I understand the labor and construction didn’t,” Sheeman said.
Councilman Tom Black, R-4, said not granting the extension would lead to a worse outcome.
“If things were to stop now, we’d still be in the same place with taxpayers’ money, and so who are we going to get to end it?” says Black.
Sheeman then said that if the board were to grant an extension, it would have to build another deal with some contingencies. Zemen angrily disagreed.
“I hope you remember what the property looked like before (Gendreau) bought it: it was five (expletive) houses infested with rats. Now it’s the most professional development in town,” said Zemen, adding that Gendreau has helped many Highland residents with veterinary issues. “I thank God for this man, and we should (thank him), not try to kick him out of town.”
“I didn’t say that,” Schocke began before Zemen cut him off.
“You’ve been against this project from day one, so you’re going to say ‘No’ no matter what, so don’t even bother talking to him,” Zemen told the three. “This guy here (Black) seems to get it.”
In 2020, Schocke sought to revoke the Cardinal Campus allocation area again and transfer the $344,475 currently there to the general fund after attempting earlier this summer to nullify the agreement with the Cardinal Campus – as well as the contract between the city, Davenport, the Iowa-based developer Russell Group and the owners of the 20 acres north of Strack and Van Til on Cline Avenue for Ernie Strack Drive – due to deficits budgets caused by the pandemic.
Former clerk-treasurer Michael Griffin acknowledged at the time that the Cardinal campus allocation area was not generating the kind of money it should, but because Gendreau chose to do private placement bonds, the city is not responsible for the money. t generated in it. Additionally, monies in an allocation area can only be used by law for redevelopment projects in or adjacent to the allocation area itself. It cannot be transferred to the general fund or other budget items.
Michelle L. Quinn is a freelance writer for the Post-Tribune.