While city officials are about to hail the first store opening in Provo's new shopping mall, they're taking issue with a mass mailing from its competitor in neighboring Orem that has nothing to do with the price of school clothes.
A University Mall flier sent to some 26,000 households in Orem and Provo doesn't advertise a back-to-school sale that would be typical of late summer. Rather, it attempts to set straight the incentives Orem provided University Mall to expand and Provo provided Provo Towne Centre to build."Is it accurate?" was Provo Economic Development Director Leland Gamette's first question without even having seen it. After reading it Monday, Gamette concluded the piece misses the mark badly.
"The bottom line is that it's unfortunate that someone spent a lot of time and effort to not get the facts out correctly," he said.
The mailer is the latest volley in a tit-for-tat skirmish between the two cities and their malls.
Orem is taking heat from some residents for the multimillion-dollar sales tax incentive package it gave University Mall to remodel, retain ZCMI and entice Nordstrom. The mall received no subsidies from the city for the first 25 years of its existence. Mall owner Woodbury Corp. is investing about $54 million into the refurbishing project.
University Mall and Woodbury mailed the flier to point out that both malls received similar assistance from their respective cities, said Walker Kennedy III, Woodbury attorney.
"We aren't criticizing Provo for its actions. In fact, we believe local government assistance for major mall developments is an appropriate action. We just can't stand by and let one mall that received assistance malign another mall and its community for purely competitive reasons," he said.
Price Development Co., developer of the $100 million Provo Towne Centre, sued Orem last month contending the City Council improperly spent public funds for private purposes. The company's owner, John Price, owns land in Orem.
"I think it's kind of a reaction to Price's lawsuit," Ron Madsen, Provo redevelopment director, said of the mall flier.
Madsen and Gamette say the flier's assertion that Provo's assistance "has few conditions and goes straight to the developer's pocket" are false. "It couldn't be further from the truth," Gamette said, after debunking each of University Mall's points.
Woodbury attorneys gleaned information for the mailer from hundreds of pages of documents obtained from Provo and its redevelopment agency through the Government Records Access and Management Act, said Woodbury spokesman Clark Caras.
"It is a synopsis of 500 pages," Caras said. "I think that what they're getting into is semantics."
Provo does provide JP Realty property tax increment financing allowed under state law in redevelopment areas, Gamette said, which can be used at no cost to the current tax base.
Price Development Co. will receive all of the new property tax generated for the first five years. The tax increment amount will be reduced each five years, so the city, county and school district get a portion of the new revenue. After 25 years, all of it goes to the taxing entities.
The city will recoup about $12 million it spent to buy and clear about 65 acres for the mall.
One of Provo Towne Centre's anchor stores, Dillard's, will have a grand opening Wednesday. The entire mall is scheduled to open in October. University Mall's makeover is expected to be complete next summer.