Sunday, September 6, 2015

Neighborhood Resource Center Fools Willing City Council

Dan Cook
by Dan Cook - At the August 18 Metro Council meeting, The Neighborhood Resource Center was given a financial windfall at the expense of the Davidson County taxpayers. The non-profit was allowed to purchase Metro’s interest in the organization’s building, the former Nashville Fire Hall No.1 in Germantown, for only $100,909. One week after the vote on August 25, the entity’s broker, Roscoe High of Southeast Ventures, listed the property for sale on the commercial real estate site LoopNet for a startling $1.8 million.

The listing has since been removed, according to Mr. High at the request of NRC. A sale would represent a windfall to the essentially defunct non-profit - and a loss to the taxpayers - of nearly $1.4 million. Of the 40-member council 33 voted for the tax giveaway, including mayoral hopeful Megan Berry.
The bill was sponsored by Erica Gilmour, who is running for an at-large council seat.

Here’s the timeline. In 2007, the city sold the firehall to the NRC for $86,000. At the time, the property was appraised for $147,000, resulting is a giveaway to the organization at that time of of $61,000. However, the deed stipulated that if the NRC ever failed to occupy the building, NRC was entitled to the $86,000 they paid for the property and the cost of any improvements to the property, but the property would revert to Metro. In the interim, the NRC purchased an adjoining property for $150,000. Together with the original purchase price of the fire hall, this brought the NRC’s total cost basis in the land to $236,000.

The NRC did indeed fall on hard times and reduced their staff to only one person, the Executive Director, Jim Hawk. This triggered Metro’s right to buy back the fire hall for $86,000. But the NRC decided to change the deal. Real estate had appreciated tremendously in Germantown, a fact not lost on the NRC. The NRC decided to offer Metro $100,909 for the City's interest in the property. The council acceded to the NRC’s request on August 18, bringing the non-profit’s cost basis in the property to approximately $337,000.

Alarmingly, during the three readings of the bill before the Council, there doesn’t appear to be any disclosure of the property’s true value. The NRC’s broker, Roscoe High, confirmed that he and other brokers competing for NRC’s business had given their assessment of value to the non-profit as early as nine months before the Council votes. There is no indication that Metro conducted a market appraisal of the property before staff recommended the sale. The property is currently appraised for approximately $430,000 and a recent National Public Radio article estimated the value at “about a half a million dollars” (link).  It does not appear that the NRC’s board, which until recently comprised Metro Council Members Elect Britt Withers and John Syracuse, or Director Jim Hawk disclosed the market value to Metro.

To put this giveaway to the Neighborhood Resource Center into perspective, the $1.4 million would pay the salaries of over 30 teachers for a year.

Dan is an accidental developer and designer in his pursuit of operating an event venue.   He has started a number of businesses from a restaurant in Wyoming to a software company.  He’s always on the lookout for his next venue location. He is the owner of Rubys event space on Blakemore Ave.

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