Anyone surprised that Michael Falcone might be the one fronting the money for a parking lot across from the hotel he and a group of investors are looking to build on State Street? I know I was when I first heard about it, simply because Falcone and representatives from his real estate company Pioneer Cos. had been adamant about the city building the public lot across the street from the hotel.
In my conversation with Falcone yesterday, he pointed out that the parking lot is not being built as part of the hotel - it's a separate project that he would be personally financing if it moves forward. It would just be too expensive for the lot to be associated with the hotel costs, he said.
If Falcone builds the lot and changes the plans to avoid doing work on the sewer line under the project, it does a couple things for the hotel proposal. For one, it means the project no longer needs four votes from the five-member council because there will be no bonding. According to the city attorney's office, it will take three votes to abandon the short stretch of Water Street needed for the project and sell it to the developer. Secondly, it looks like it would give the project unanimous support on the city council. Both Matthew Smith and William Graney said they are behind the hotel as of now.
This project and the story surrounding it have come a long way since March, when I first called around and walked into the businesses on State and Water streets after hearing rumors about eminent domain. Even from May, after the AIDA meeting where the board defeated eminent domain and the developer's request for financial incentives, I remember having to literally run after the people from Pioneer who hurried out of the council chambers and gave me a curt "No comment" when I asked if it meant the project was dead.
But this is not over. There are still votes to be cast, a Planning Board meeting to take place and another public hearing. When I cover a development project I always maintain a "believe it when I see it" stance.