This is one of those times.
For years, there's been a huge disagreement over the value of the former Regency Mall. The county assessed it at $4.2 million. The owners, Cardinal Entities, claim they could fetch $50 million or more for it.
That's interesting, since the owners also fought the government's attempt last year to raise the property assessment to $5.7 million.
Now, however, there is a more objective basis for an assessment.
We have to admit it took us a second look to understand it, too. So let's go through the process.
The mall owners in 2007 bought the old Montgomery Ward building, the last part of the mall to close (in 2001), for $2.3 million.
Of course, the government's tax on your property is supposed to be based on its value -- and nothing establishes a property's value better than an arm's length purchase of it.
The county initially moved to add the increased value of the Montgomery Ward building to the $4.2 million assessment on the whole of the mall. But the Board of Equalization last year said hold on, and for good reason: The $2.3 million value of the Montgomery Ward property was a more accurate measurement of true market value than the $4.2 million figure on the rest of the mall. Why? Because it was based on an actual purchase, not just an opinion on its worth.
So, using the information from the Montgomery Ward sale, the county extrapolated the value of the entire 72-acre mall site to be $16 million.
That appears to be a more accurate valuation.
Now, we have a problem with anyone's taxes going up that much -- in the mall's case, being quadrupled from $51,223 to $195,000 -- in one year. There is a movement in the Georgia General Assembly to cap property tax valuation increases, and it's a good idea. If government is vastly undervaluing a property for years, it seems unfair to play catchup overnight.
The next question, though, after how much the mall is worth, is: What is it for?
Perhaps Cardinal Entities knows; why else would it buy up the Montgomery Ward parcel?
If not, we still think it'd be an ideal place for a new multipurpose sports and entertainment arena.
That idea was proposed a few years ago, and the Chronicle's company was a big backer, but the proposal died in large part because taxpayers were getting everything but the kitchen sink thrown at them.
Today, things are quite different. A new and more functional city government has proposed a package of special purpose local option sales tax items that is more focused and responsible.
And while the sports arena proposal isn't a part of the package, and the Chronicle is now only an interested spectator, we still think the Regency Mall site would be a wonderful location for a new arena. The current arena is out of date and based on 40-year-old technology.
Once we have the value of the mall nailed down -- and it looks like we're close -- then the question becomes what to do with it. We think it'd be a great regional sports and entertainment hub.
And the property? It'd be worth even more.
Putting the Montgomery Ward building together with the rest of the mall for tax purposes showed that the property was worth more than we thought. The whole was worth more than the sum of its parts.
Somebody asked AskOxford.com (yes, the dictionary people), "What is the word for 'the whole is greater than the sum of the parts'?" The Oxford people suggested the word is synergy: "the interaction or cooperation of two or more organizations, substances, or other agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects."
Sounds like what we need to do, doesn't it?