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  #181  
Old Posted Mar 28, 2019, 1:43 AM
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Originally Posted by allovertown View Post
It's not about "FORCING" someone to sell if they don't want to, it's about fixing a broken tax code that creates so many incentives to operate surface parking lots in this city. The way the city taxes unimproved land is clearly thoroughly inadequate. Every time someone does sell one of these lots they always sell for somewhere in the neighborhood of 10-50 times the value they were being taxed at. There is nothing malicious with trying to get the valuation used to tax a property more in line with its actual value.
Well, there lies the problem. The value doesn't increase until the purpose of that lot changes. So, why should the value of the lot be taxed as it full potential value (i.e., putting a trophy building or some high value building/business in its place), when the revenues for parked cars will not be the same as revenue for leases to occupy office space. And believe me, businesses in the city have been "forced" to leave and do business outside of city limits because of a plethora of business taxes. And, one of the main reasons Philly cannot attract more businesses is because of its taxes. That has been echoed here too many times to count.

In any case, I don't have faith in how property, land, parking lots or whatever is assessed by the city so that it is fair and evenhanded for everyone. Maybe the city can sell the city-owned parking surface lots first to private developers before trying to tackle an underassessment of privately owned parking lots.

Again, I don't like surface lots and would rather see the compromise of a new project that includes a garage in its place.
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  #182  
Old Posted Mar 28, 2019, 2:26 AM
allovertown allovertown is offline
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Originally Posted by iheartphilly View Post
Well, there lies the problem. The value doesn't increase until the purpose of that lot changes. So, why should the value of the lot be taxed as it full potential value (i.e., putting a trophy building or some high value building/business in its place), when the revenues for parked cars will not be the same as revenue for leases to occupy office space. And believe me, businesses in the city have been "forced" to leave and do business outside of city limits because of a plethora of business taxes. And, one of the main reasons Philly cannot attract more businesses is because of its taxes. That has been echoed here too many times to count.

In any case, I don't have faith in how property, land, parking lots or whatever is assessed by the city so that it is fair and evenhanded for everyone. Maybe the city can sell the city-owned parking surface lots first to private developers before trying to tackle an underassessment of privately owned parking lots.

Again, I don't like surface lots and would rather see the compromise of a new project that includes a garage in its place.
To the first point, that's simply not correct.

When a parking lot is sold to a developer for millions of dollars and many times what it was assessed for tax purposes, the purpose of the lot hasn't changed yet. It is still a parking lot at that point.

The land doesn't become worth more when it is improved. It IS worth more because it CAN be improved. Assets are worth what someone will pay for them, it's pretty straightforward. Improved or not, the location of these lots, their zoning, etc, is what makes them valuable and that's why people will pay huge sums for them well before the lot is ever improved. If every time a parking lot sells in the center city area it out performs by an insane percentage what the city assessed it for tax purposes, it's pretty clear that the city is habitually under assessing these types of lots.

Taxing parking lots or vacant land accurately, doesn't mean taxing them as though there is a trophy tower built on the land prematurely. It simply means taxing them what they are actually worth and what people routinely pay for them as empty lots. Once something is actually built on the lot and the purpose of the lot actually changes, then the property is worth even more. But these lots are valuable as parking lots and it is time they are taxed that way.
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  #183  
Old Posted Mar 28, 2019, 3:03 AM
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Originally Posted by allovertown View Post
To the first point, that's simply not correct.

When a parking lot is sold to a developer for millions of dollars and many times what it was assessed for tax purposes, the purpose of the lot hasn't changed yet. It is still a parking lot at that point.

The land doesn't become worth more when it is improved. It IS worth more because it CAN be improved. Assets are worth what someone will pay for them, it's pretty straightforward. Improved or not, the location of these lots, their zoning, etc, is what makes them valuable and that's why people will pay huge sums for them well before the lot is ever improved. If every time a parking lot sells in the center city area it out performs by an insane percentage what the city assessed it for tax purposes, it's pretty clear that the city is habitually under assessing these types of lots.

Taxing parking lots or vacant land accurately, doesn't mean taxing them as though there is a trophy tower built on the land prematurely. It simply means taxing them what they are actually worth and what people routinely pay for them as empty lots. Once something is actually built on the lot and the purpose of the lot actually changes, then the property is worth even more. But these lots are valuable as parking lots and it is time they are taxed that way.
The actual value of that lot is at present value and operating as a parking lot and should be assessed as the value of land/lot as a parking lot, and not what it can hypothetically be at a future point in time. In other words, it is being discounted for its use as a parking lot. You can not completely dismissed the parking lot piece and treat the lot with its use as a parking lot for something else. Once a developer is will to pay x amount over actual assessed value, the developer's intent of that parking lot/land is telling. The developer is not paying x many times over (sometimes in the millions as you said), to operate it again as a surface parking lot. So here the discount doesn't apply, because the intent of selling the lot to a developer is for the developer to put some kind of building that they think is worth what the surround buildings are worth or at least command some premium rental price per square footage. So until that changes, i don't believe the guy operating the parking lot should be assess some tax percentage in the millions because someone could potentially be paying for it for some other use in the future that is not a parking lot.

We differ on this, but I am not incorrect. We have a difference of opinion of how this stuff is assessed. I'm sure a case could be made to increase the valuation when it is truly under assessed, like comparing the assessment of another surface lot a block or two away. Plus where would the guy operating that parking get enough revenue to pay taxes if assessment was in the millions and also have enough to pay his employees and other overhead. It doesn't make sense. Many small businesses, sole proprietors, family businesses would be forced to close their business if done this way. Even in Manhattan, you still see small businesses and mom/pop in close proximity to the pricey neighborhood when it is held generationally. If they apply the value of the land to a high-rise on top of it, you wouldn't have anything except big corporations that could afford the rent or that if it becomes unprofitable to run a business there and it eventually moves. And, maybe that is the direction it will eventually go because big corporations can do it because the guy retires and want to sell for maximum profit.

Last edited by iheartphilly; Mar 28, 2019 at 3:18 AM.
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  #184  
Old Posted Mar 28, 2019, 9:51 AM
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Last edited by jsbrook; Mar 28, 2019 at 11:37 AM.
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  #185  
Old Posted Mar 28, 2019, 1:19 PM
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The biggest problem I have with the idea of taxing lots based on their "potential" value is that nobody really knows what a lot's potential is. Who's to say what rent you could get, or whether the market could support a tower that utilizes all of the FAR? Say that the market was declining, and no towers were getting built - why then would you value a lot based on allowable FAR if it's not really realistic to expect the owner to build a tower and get a good return? That's why you can only assess something for what it is and not what it could be, because nobody knows.
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  #186  
Old Posted Mar 28, 2019, 1:27 PM
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Originally Posted by iheartphilly View Post
Yep

The actual value of that lot is at present value and operating as a parking lot and should be assessed as the value of land/lot as a parking lot, and not what it can hypothetically be at a future point in time. In other words, it is being discounted for its use as a parking lot. You can not completely dismissed the parking lot piece and treat the lot with its use as a parking lot for something else. Once a developer is will to pay x amount over actual assessed value, the developer's intent of that parking lot/land is telling. The developer is not paying x many times over (sometimes in the millions as you said), to operate it again as a surface parking lot. So here the discount doesn't apply, because the intent of selling the lot to a developer is for the developer to put some kind of building that they think is worth what the surround buildings are worth or at least command some premium rental price per square footage. So until that changes, i don't believe the guy operating the parking lot should be assess some tax percentage in the millions because someone could potentially be paying for it for some other use in the future that is not a parking lot.

We differ on this, but I am not incorrect. We have a difference of opinion of how this stuff is assessed. I'm sure a case could be made to increase the valuation when it is truly under assessed, like comparing the assessment of another surface lot a block or two away. Plus where would the guy operating that parking get enough revenue to pay taxes if assessment was in the millions and also have enough to pay his employees and other overhead. It doesn't make sense. Many small businesses, sole proprietors, family businesses would be forced to close their business if done this way. Even in Manhattan, you still see small businesses and mom/pop in close proximity to the pricey neighborhood when it is held generationally. If they apply the value of the land to a high-rise on top of it, you wouldn't have anything except big corporations that could afford the rent or that if it becomes unprofitable to run a business there and it eventually moves. And, maybe that is the direction it will eventually go because big corporations can do it because the guy retires and want to sell for maximum profit.

If you have a parking lot that's valued at $500K for tax purposes and I come along and offer you $2M and you turn me down, I'd say it's pretty clear that the real world value, today, of that lot is at least $2M.
I don't think the State law allows this, but surface parking lots should be taxed at their full value, value as determined by the open market. Various factors will effect that value, like zoning. But the working principal is that its better for the City to have something other then a surface parking lot, so the City should do what it can to encourage development. Encourage, not force. If market conditions allow, or if the owner chooses to land bank the property, then maybe parking will continue. But I don't see anything wrong with the City working against parking lots.
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  #187  
Old Posted Mar 28, 2019, 1:49 PM
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Originally Posted by iheartphilly View Post
Yep

The actual value of that lot is at present value and operating as a parking lot and should be assessed as the value of land/lot as a parking lot, and not what it can hypothetically be at a future point in time. In other words, it is being discounted for its use as a parking lot. You can not completely dismissed the parking lot piece and treat the lot with its use as a parking lot for something else. Once a developer is will to pay x amount over actual assessed value, the developer's intent of that parking lot/land is telling. The developer is not paying x many times over (sometimes in the millions as you said), to operate it again as a surface parking lot. So here the discount doesn't apply, because the intent of selling the lot to a developer is for the developer to put some kind of building that they think is worth what the surround buildings are worth or at least command some premium rental price per square footage. So until that changes, i don't believe the guy operating the parking lot should be assess some tax percentage in the millions because someone could potentially be paying for it for some other use in the future that is not a parking lot.

We differ on this, but I am not incorrect. We have a difference of opinion of how this stuff is assessed. I'm sure a case could be made to increase the valuation when it is truly under assessed, like comparing the assessment of another surface lot a block or two away. Plus where would the guy operating that parking get enough revenue to pay taxes if assessment was in the millions and also have enough to pay his employees and other overhead. It doesn't make sense. Many small businesses, sole proprietors, family businesses would be forced to close their business if done this way. Even in Manhattan, you still see small businesses and mom/pop in close proximity to the pricey neighborhood when it is held generationally. If they apply the value of the land to a high-rise on top of it, you wouldn't have anything except big corporations that could afford the rent or that if it becomes unprofitable to run a business there and it eventually moves. And, maybe that is the direction it will eventually go because big corporations can do it because the guy retires and want to sell for maximum profit.
So why does this make sense from the city's standpoint? I get that you are enjoying this mental exercise of parsing statements into justifications, but in a cash strapped city allowing the practice of your big-time moneymakers to earn you effectively zilch is almost criminal. Especially with reasonably popular solutions at hand. Besides, the notion that the city assessors have accurately determined the value of the land in the first place to bolster your argument is laughable. For the record, I don't think this should apply to areas outside of greater CC.

As an aside, this lot is owned by Michael Singer Real estate. It was taxed at $600k pre AVI in 2013 (which is, again, criminal). It jumped to $2.6mm in 2014 and jumped again to $4.2mm last year. My guess is that another jump in the next few years will push these guys to sell.
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  #188  
Old Posted Mar 28, 2019, 1:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Urbanthusiat View Post
The biggest problem I have with the idea of taxing lots based on their "potential" value is that nobody really knows what a lot's potential is. Who's to say what rent you could get, or whether the market could support a tower that utilizes all of the FAR? Say that the market was declining, and no towers were getting built - why then would you value a lot based on allowable FAR if it's not really realistic to expect the owner to build a tower and get a good return? That's why you can only assess something for what it is and not what it could be, because nobody knows.
There's literally a job for people who do exactly that.
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  #189  
Old Posted Mar 28, 2019, 2:05 PM
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Originally Posted by Londonee View Post
There's literally a job for people who do exactly that.
Indeed. And they rely on the fundamental and well established concept of Highest and Best Use (HBU):

https://www.google.com/search?q=high...hrome&ie=UTF-8
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  #190  
Old Posted Mar 28, 2019, 2:07 PM
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Originally Posted by Londonee View Post
So why does this make sense from the city's standpoint? I get that you are enjoying this mental exercise of parsing statements into justifications, but in a cash strapped city allowing the practice of your big-time moneymakers to earn you effectively zilch is almost criminal. Especially with reasonably popular solutions at hand. Besides, the notion that the city assessors have accurately determined the value of the land in the first place to bolster your argument is laughable. For the record, I don't think this should apply to areas outside of greater CC.

As an aside, this lot is owned by Michael Singer Real estate. It was taxed at $600k pre AVI in 2013 (which is, again, criminal). It jumped to $2.6mm in 2014 and jumped again to $4.2mm last year. My guess is that another jump in the next few years will push these guys to sell.
If you re-read my posts on this topic, I've never said the city assessors have accurately determine the value of land. I even said I don't have faith in the assessment process. Until they make the assessment process more of a science rather than an art, there's lots of subjectivity and variables to play with which results in inconsistent assessments.
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  #191  
Old Posted Mar 28, 2019, 3:19 PM
allovertown allovertown is offline
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Originally Posted by iheartphilly View Post
If you re-read my posts on this topic, I've never said the city assessors have accurately determine the value of land. I even said I don't have faith in the assessment process. Until they make the assessment process more of a science rather than an art, there's lots of subjectivity and variables to play with which results in inconsistent assessments.
Your argument is nonsense from a logic standpoint. You assert that currently assessed values should remain in place because the city is incapable of accurately assessing the current value of properties. The way the city values properties is an art, not a science, so how could we entrust them to try to accurately determine the value of a parking lot?

But the current assessments were also created by the same art, not science process. So then why would you argue that the current assessment is more legitimate than the other, especially when the actual real world market continues to show the current assessments are wildly out of wack?

No one is arguing that the city should try and guess what the property is worth if it is developed. But the city should try their best to accurately access the value of every property in the city in its current state, and it has clearly been shown that the tax code is far too generous to parking lots. I agree it is hard to determine exactly what the value of something is, but the current values of many of these lots are absurdly low as Londonee pointed out.

Sometimes cities will put their thumbs on the scale a bit to incentivize the right things to be built in the right places. But in this case the city is effectively doing the opposite. By assessing these lots so low, far lower than their actual value, the city is encouraging people to hang on to empty lots and speculate on them. It encourages people to create a parking lot, collect easy money, pay a great low property tax rate, and sit around until a developer offers you an insane amount of money. Why should the city actively disincentivize development in the heart of its downtown?

Even if we can't get the assessment perfect, we can get it a lot more accurate than it is now.
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  #192  
Old Posted Mar 28, 2019, 3:32 PM
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Originally Posted by allovertown View Post
Your argument is nonsense from a logic standpoint. You assert that currently assessed values should remain in place because the city is incapable of accurately assessing the current value of properties. The way the city values properties is an art, not a science, so how could we entrust them to try to accurately determine the value of a parking lot?

But the current assessments were also created by the same art, not science process. So then why would you argue that the current assessment is more legitimate than the other, especially when the actual real world market continues to show the current assessments are wildly out of wack?

No one is arguing that the city should try and guess what the property is worth if it is developed. But the city should try their best to accurately access the value of every property in the city in its current state, and it has clearly been shown that the tax code is far too generous to parking lots. I agree it is hard to determine exactly what the value of something is, but the current values of many of these lots are absurdly low as Londonee pointed out.

Sometimes cities will put their thumbs on the scale a bit to incentivize the right things to be built in the right places. But in this case the city is effectively doing the opposite. By assessing these lots so low, far lower than their actual value, the city is encouraging people to hang on to empty lots and speculate on them. It encourages people to create a parking lot, collect easy money, pay a great low property tax rate, and sit around until a developer offers you an insane amount of money. Why should the city actively disincentivize development in the heart of its downtown?

Even if we can't get the assessment perfect, we can get it a lot more accurate than it is now.
uh huh, if you say so. clearly we disagree on the assessment process. So, the city should challenge current assessments and see where it goes on surface lots. I'm sure they can move the needle a bit, but not to the point where you think they can. And, like I've intimated before, I'm all for re-assessment comparable to other surface parking lot in the same vicinity, but not on potential values of a different use or purpose for the lot.
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  #193  
Old Posted Mar 28, 2019, 3:43 PM
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uh huh, if you say so. clearly we disagree on the assessment process. So, the city should challenge current assessments and see where it goes on surface lots. I'm sure they can move the needle a bit, but not to the point where you think they can. And, like I've intimated before, I'm all for re-assessment comparable to other surface parking lot in the same vicinity, but not on potential values of a different use or purpose for the lot.
I repeat: HIGHEST AND BEST USE. It's a widespread and well established basis for appraising the value of vacant lots. For example:

Quote:
Highest and Best Use

A property must be appraised in terms of its highest and best use.

The definition of highest and best use is as follows:

The reasonable, probable and legal use of vacant land or an improved property, which is physically possible, appropriately supported, financially feasible, and that results in the highest value.
http://www.duncanbrown.com/highest-and-best-use


Google "highest and best use" and you'll see lots more:

https://www.google.com/search?q=high...hrome&ie=UTF-8
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  #194  
Old Posted Mar 28, 2019, 3:47 PM
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I repeat: HIGHEST AND BEST USE. It's a widespread and well established basis for appraising the value of vacant lots. For example:



http://www.duncanbrown.com/highest-and-best-use


Google "highest and best use" and you'll see lots more:

https://www.google.com/search?q=high...hrome&ie=UTF-8
Fine. Pull up some court cases to demonstrate this and what the outcome was when it was challenged by the owners. Both in support of it and against it so that we get a balance look at it.
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  #195  
Old Posted Mar 28, 2019, 4:57 PM
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Surface parking lots pay more than just property taxes-- though technically not a tax, after 2009 or so parking operators got hammered by the non-residential stormwater management charge which led to a lot of the smaller surface parking owners to sell their lots. The problem is, Parkway and EZ Park ended up buying 90% of them!
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  #196  
Old Posted Mar 28, 2019, 4:58 PM
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This is why we need to have property taxes be more weighted to land value than improvements.

It is patently obvious that a parking lot within a block of Rittenhouse Square is hardly the site's highest and best use. However, it is the use with the least amount of improvements the site requires to be productive, and therefore the cheapest use to maintain, from a tax perspective, in a property taxation system that focuses on taxing improvements.

And therein lies the difference between land value and improvements schemes for property tax: Improvements taxes tend to incentivize the least amount of improvements the land will bear to be financially productive, which in turn over time undermines the viability of greater improvements outside the PLVI area proper. It turns cities into parking craters.

By contrast, land value taxes place the primary tax burden on the far less elastic value of the land itself, and in so doing incentivize building to the maximum improvements the land will bear, as (unlike with an improvements tax) a land value tax will not change a property's valuation dependent on whether it bears (a) a surface parking lot, (b) a 5-story building, or (c) a 50-story building, the way that improvements taxes do.

It also occurs to me that another way to explain this is that a land value tax cares less about the minutia of the built form and more about assay how in demand the city itself is. An in-demand city, that is, should have upwards-trending land value taxes, while a déclassé one downwards-trending land value taxes.
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  #197  
Old Posted Mar 29, 2019, 11:27 AM
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I am certainly no expert in anything tax related but I agree with Hammersklavier that we need more of a Land Value Tax (LVT) that taxes the value of the land (which has nothing to do with the owner but instead is a product of the community's strength or weakness) rather than the improvements. Doing so would only incentivize more development. PA actually permits LVT (see article below) and this has had success in smaller cities like Allentown and Harrisburg:
https://www.strongtowns.org/journal/...tax-experiment

I think Philly moved towards more of a tax on the land rather than the buildings on the land (improvements) a few years ago but it is not nearly enough. Hopefully as the city gets better at assessments (if there is one thing big data can help I think this is it) we will see a shift towards an LVT.
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  #198  
Old Posted Jun 18, 2019, 3:23 AM
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They made this thing a single lot back in November:
https://li.phila.gov/#details?entity...0CHESTNUT%20ST

It's also listed on their website as an "opportunity:"
https://www.parkwaycorp.com/real-est...hestnut-street

Anyone with inside info know if this is DOA? I find it weird that Parkway would submit this to CDR and then not follow through with anything.
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  #199  
Old Posted Jun 18, 2019, 3:27 AM
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Originally Posted by mcgrath618 View Post
They made this thing a single lot back in November:
https://li.phila.gov/#details?entity...0CHESTNUT%20ST

It's also listed on their website as an "opportunity:"
https://www.parkwaycorp.com/real-est...hestnut-street

Anyone with inside info know if this is DOA? I find it weird that Parkway would submit this to CDR and then not follow through with anything.
I believe they've simply shifted their focus to developing office properties along West Market. They don't need to rush to develop everything at once.
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  #200  
Old Posted Jun 18, 2019, 4:30 PM
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I believe they've simply shifted their focus to developing office properties along West Market. They don't need to rush to develop everything at once.
From what I've been told (by a architect) is that in the past Parkway's involvement with projects has been putting in their ownership of the land, and wanting a piece of the action and rights to control future parking rights in the new projects. Now with their proposed project in west CC maybe they are trying something different, but with this Chestnut St. lot I'm guessing they would continue to be open to a partnership if another developer approached them. The devil is always in the details.
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