Council members will receive reports from town staff exploring the feasibility of moving the library to the mall in the space now occupied by Dillard’s. The documents made public on the town’s website indicate that the move would fit the library’s space requirements, and the architects the town hired to supplement the mall’s architects believe they can spruce up the place to make it palatable to readers who see the library as a destination spot. Though, no surprise to the cynical, the town is now backing off its claim that moving the library to the mall will save millions over going ahead with the approved expansion of the existing library. The truly cynical wonder whether the extra money will be used to chip into the payoff to encourage Dillard’s to move.
Because, much as I support the move to the mall, there’s no way around the fact that Dillard’s is still there, with a valid lease, though neither Dillard’s nor mall management has said when the lease expires, only that it can be terminated by either party with 60 days’ notice. Should mall management act on that right, you can be sure Dillard’s lawyers will make the mall aware of the mall’s tactless at best, ham-fisted at worst, announcement at the start of the Christmas shopping season of plans based on the expectation that Dillard’s will close. The damages Dillard’s might win in that lawsuit should make up for any disappointing holiday sales figures.
Rather than spend money on supplemental architects, the town might be wise to beef up its legal team instead. Any sales contract the town signs needs to state explicitly and in air-tight terms what each party’s rights and obligations are should the town decide at some future date to use the space for something other than a library. And, what happens if the mall embraces a new vision for itself down the line?
Converting a commercial entity that generates sales tax and property tax revenue to the town into a non-revenue-generating public space will cost the town about $50,000 annually in lost tax revenue. But given that the town has saved that much in salaries by firing the two sanitation workers (though it cost taxpayers $22,000 in consulting fees to do so), that shouldn’t affect council’s decision.
– Nancy Oates