For me the main issue is accountability. I think this ties into several other strands of thought. First, as has been convincingly argued by others, McKee should not be rewarded for his neglect of the property. To do so is to send a message that block-busting is morally acceptable and that we’re fine with wealthy people trampling over the rights of middle and lower income people in order to get what they want. Thus, I would argue that McKee’s “punishment” for his neglect should be that we hold him to much higher standards of accountability than we would have done if he had previously demonstrated good faith.
Second, I lived in Massachusetts during the “Big Dig” and I’m very wary about situations where the government is so invested in a project that they are basically forced to throw money down a bottomless pit in order to avoid disaster. I think we need to ensure that along every step of the way of this process, Paul McKee has more at stake with each goal being met than does any other player (including the city and the local residents). He is, after all, a businessman, so if there is ever a point in the process where he can leverage the fact that the city has more invested than he does to get the city to commit more money, why wouldn’t he do it? Thus, in my opinion, any deal should be structured so that if McKee announces half way through, “Oh, I guess we aren’t able to do the trolleys after all,” then he should lose X amount of subsidization. If he decides that he can’t renovate some building he had promised to renovate, then he should lose a punitive amount of subsidization. In other words, his funding should be tied to the promises he makes, so that there is no point in the process where he can sneak out of his commitments or blackmail the city to cover them.
So my question is: is there a way to structure the subsidization so that it is contingent upon McKee meeting the commitments he has made (including things like the trolley, preservation, not using eminent domain, etc)?
Yes. The redevelopment ordinance can — and should — make such contingencies.
Good, then let's make it happen!