BEST BOONDOGGLE - 2001
Lake Street Sears Building
For more than 60 years, the Lake Street Sears was a center of commerce in south Minneapolis. But in 1994, after years of losing money at the site, the company decided to close the store. Time passed. A Chicago-based developer proposed to redevelop the site, but Minneapolis officials balked at the subsidy he was seeking, and his plans to tear down the complex's distinctive tower. Enter Ray Harris, developer of Calhoun Square, to save the day. Harris and his partners bought the building in 1998, with the city agreeing to kick in to finance the project. Time passed. By fall of 2000, more than $7 million in public money had been spent readying the building for rehab, and city officials were getting increasingly hacked off at Harris's inability to get the show on the road. In March the city pulled the trigger and bought out Harris, bringing everything back to square one. The lesson? The private sector can fail on its own, but in order to really screw things up you need to work with government.