A shady government-subsidized property purchase is allegedly the key to getting Columbia, S.C. mayor Steve Benjamin off the hook for the money he lost in an equally shady government-subsidized housing development – one which went belly-up earlier this year at a cost of millions of dollars to taxpayers.
According to our sources, the city’s highly questionable decision to purchase an abandoned warehouse a few months ago had a little “extra” thrown into the purchase price.
This “extra” money will allegedly go to make good on the bailout Benjamin received from a former business partner. This bailout extricated him from the spectacularly failed “Village at River’s Edge” project, a government-subsidized affordable housing boondoggle.
The Village at River’s Edge received at least $7.8 million in federal “stimulus” money and millions more in grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (USHUD). Columbia, S.C. taxpayers shelled out money for the project thanks to Benjamin– who sold the plan to city council back in 2006.
Now taxpayers are allegedly being deprived of additional money to pay off his bailout.
Multiple sources have confirmed to FITS that the city’s recent decision to purchase the Palmetto Compress Building – located downtown near the Carolina Coliseum – is linked to the River’s Edge deal. Back in March at a specially convened meeting, the city agreed to buy the property for $5.6 million – with another $1.5 million (at least) thrown in for “upgrade” expenses.
The purposes of those “upgrades?” To help “re-purpose” this building for another use.
Well … and to make Benjamin “whole,” according to our sources.
The Palmetto Compress deal makes zero sense for the city. At the time Benjamin and his allies on the council stepped in with their “re-purposing” plan, the building was about to be demolished to make way for a private sector housing development targeting students at the University of South Carolina. So yeah – a totally worthless property which had been on the market for more than a decade and was about to assume a new private sector use is now on its way to becoming a multi-million-dollar boondoggle.
Via the hospitality funds, taxpayers are now on the hook for a massive investment with nothing but a promise from Steve Benjamin justifying the expense. No audit. No appraisal. Nothing. Just one guy’s word that this location will eventually be transformed into some sort of “entertainment space” or “museum.”
And remember, this is the same guy who brought taxpayers the “Village at River’s Edge” debacle in the first place …
Yeah, Columbia taxpayers. Don’t get dizzy watching more of your money go down the drain … oh, and just wait until the hospitality fund has no more money left for city leaders to borrow against. We can hear the tax hike drumbeat already …