In today's Real Estate blog in the Observer, Matthew Schuerman highlights a couple of important points. In the first place he points out that Commissioner Phillips, a one time foe turned friend, made it clear that she saw the Sprayregen land swap as a key feature of an improved expansion plan: "Ms. Phillips took the floor. She listed a number of elements of the plan that she wished would be changed, among them, a land swap between the moving company Tuck-It-Away and Columbia to reduce the need for eminent domain."
Hooray for Karen, someone who understands the essence of a development partnership and can clearly see why CU's plan falls short. Also kudos need to go out to Commissioner Cantor who abstained from an approval because of the eminent domain issue: "But, while lauding the economic development that Columbia’s expansion promises to bring to upper Manhattan, Mr. Cantor objected to the state’s possible use of eminent domain to acquire some commercial properties that Columbia could not buy outright, on the grounds that less government was good government, and that, over the next 20 years, land owners would be stuck in limbo, unable to improve their parcels and yet unwilling to sell them off."
What's apparent is that the ED issue here is causing a certain degree of skittishness, and even New York's Burden expressed the wish that the use of this method wouldn't be necessary. As the Spectator pointed out: "Emphasizing her hope that eminent domain will not be necessary, Burden said, “Approval of the Columbia University plan would not be a vote in favor of eminent domain, and it is altogether possible that Columbia’s plan will be fully realized without eminent domain.”
Yes it certainly is possible, but we'll need to see a large dose of good faith and political will exercised before we're sanguine about averting a mega-battle over this contentious issue. Stay tuned, because these things will be front and center in the coming weeks.