Burk, Brancaglione both salesmen peddling dreams, reader asserts


Letters to the Editor

To the editor:

After reading about John Brancaglione’s Jan. 22 appearance before Crestwood’s Economic Development Commission, I was left wondering how he could have made it through his presentation with a straight face.

Mr. Brancaglione’s remarks aptly demonstrated that once the check for his consulting fee on the UrbanStreet Group proposal had been safely deposited, he was free to admit what was obvious about the developer’s proposal for the Crestwood Plaza site from the very beginning.

Consider that when consulting Crestwood’s Board of Aldermen on the feasibility of UrbanStreet’s redevelopment proposal in 2016, he barely mentioned the increasing threat of internet sales to brick-and-mortar retail in assessing the proposed mix of tenants.

Yet now, in 2018, he cites the rise of internet sales as one of the reasons UrbanStreet is having difficulty finding suitable tenants.

The rise of the internet in capturing retail sales dollars is not a new phenomenon; it was as obvious two years ago as it is today, yet somehow Mr. Brancaglione chose to ignore its significance when providing Crestwood’s board with his professional assessment of UrbanStreet’s concept.

He also conceded during his remarks to the commission that those who finance these commercial developments are scrutinizing them more closely, an observation that would have been readily apparent to someone in his business years ago, after the crash of the housing market.

The fact that Mr. Brancaglione claims to be puzzled at the lack of activity at the former mall site only underscores how much fence-straddling and word-parsing he has had to do in his career to please multiple masters — developers whose incentive-funded projects keep him in demand, and the municipalities who depend on his advice to help them evaluate a redevelopment project’s viability.

Complicit in this willful ignorance of facts is the city’s planner, Adam Jones, who, during Mr. Brancaglione’s presentation, characterized UrbanStreet’s plan as “adapting a 1990s, 1980s philosophy to a 2010-2020 world.”

If his description sounded oddly familiar to me, it was because it was strikingly similar to the public comments I made when speaking first about Centrum Partners’ redevelopment proposal, then about UrbanStreet’s, asserting each time that the proposed plans were dated and unsustainable, using old blueprints on an old footprint.

The only difference was that my comments were offered at the time the proposals were made public, not years later, and were met with indifference. Although Bob Burk of UrbanStreet is a developer and John Brancaglione is a consultant, at their core they are both salesmen peddling dreams.

In considering redevelopment proposals, the unvarnished truth, whatever its source, offers far more value than any advice a consultant using a crystal ball clouded by self-interest can provide.

Had the board received an evaluation by a neutral party not driven by the prospect of future income, perhaps it would not have been so quick to approve the suite of incentives that, thus far, have failed to spur any development.

Martha Duchild