Big projects require many hands to help. And those major undertakings also generate plenty of questions, that require answers.
That's why I'm hoping a public hearing slated for next week regarding the proposed Washington LLC apartment complex yields some more information, especially since city officials seem poised to award even more money for the project.
The Clinton City Council has already awarded $68,000 in city grants and a $472,000, 15-year tax rebate for the project. Now, with developer Chris Ales saying he's still short on funding for the estimated $11 million project, the city is gearing up for an amendment to the already agreed-upon proposal that would provide $150,000 of low- to moderate-income funds over 10 years.
If officially passed, that would create $690,000 in city money for the Washington project, a renovation of the former middle school that would include 46 low- to moderate-income senior housing units that has yet to gain much traction after being announced in 2015.
The city has been kind to other developments in the past, like the new Confucius International Education Group campus and the Wilson building.
It's not out of the realm of possibility for the city to provide funding, and I've been around long enough to know that it's a long-held tradition for developers to ask for more money, but it's difficult to assess the value for the city's money in this deal.
There are still many unanswered questions, especially on what will happen to the gymnasium and theater at the former Washington Middle School, and if the project will get on its feet even with the additional assistance. There have been multiple times in the past where this project seems to be one funding mechanism away from happening, only to need another element of money.
These questions don't lessen the impact this project has on that area, and most importantly, on the building. Having an empty Washington building is an eyesore. It's large and sits on a prominent corner in town - along Bluff Boulevard at Second Avenue South.
Keeping that Historic Register building vibrant also could boost nearby properties by sprucing up that part of the neighborhood. But it's important to start soon, since the building is now showing even more signs of age thanks to being empty since 2014.
Despite the desire to fill the vacant building, the city of Clinton also is currently undergoing a much-needed campaign to rid the city of outdated housing stock, especially owner-occupied, non-rentals.
At the same time, we've seen plenty of low- to moderate-income rental units developed in the past few years along with senior housing units. Another one is opening soon in Camanche.
It leads one to ask: Could LMI funds be used more appropriately to increase the number of owner-occupied, low- to moderate-income structures? When balanced against the crux of this project to fill an abandoned building, that's a valid concern.
That means this public hearing must register more information on timelines, impact, contingencies and more. Maybe that has been discussed behind closed doors, although it was reported previously that Ales missed a meeting with city officials.
The public, which is helping to foot the bill for the project, deserves more answers. Without those, the City Council should go back to the negotiating table regarding the proposed amendment.
Scott Levine is the Associate Editor of the Clinton Herald. He can be reached at scottlevine@clintonherald or @ScottLevineCH on Twitter.