Silly me.

I was thinking this week about what I call future nostalgia. Instead of the nostalgia of looking back on a time of enjoyment and satisfaction, it is looking forward to the same type of fulfillment.

For instance, in my personal life, I look forward with great anticipation to seeing my grandchildren grow up and be successful adults just as I did for my own children when they were toddlers.

Some Minnesota Twins fans are experiencing future nostalgia as they envision what might turn out to be an amazingly successful baseball season this year.

Voters often make decisions on candidates or issues based on future nostalgia of what they believe will occur if their side wins.

I have future nostalgia about the River City Renaissance Project, the on-again, off-again journey into economic development that has been described more than once in this column as “a house of cards” because that’s what it has been since it was first discussed nearly six years ago.

There have been many moving parts to it and if any of those individual parts fail, the entire project could come tumbling down.

I have used this space for months to lament that a development agreement had yet to be approved with Gatehouse Mason City LLC, developer for the project. The City Council took the first steps to finalizing the agreement Tuesday night. There are still some hoops the city needs to jump through including allowing 30 days for someone to come up with a counter proposal. Also, a public hearing will be required before a final vote is taken.

But it looks like it is going to happen – finally. Work is well underway on transforming the old Penney’s building in Southbridge Mall into an ice arena/multipurpose center. Many of us who travel by and see the progress being made feel at least a twinge of future nostalgia.

It’s alright to be skeptical. City Councilman Joshua Masson has taken on that role at council meetings, asking tough questions about the city’s liability if the roof caves in (figuratively). Even in the vote Tuesday night, Masson hesitated for a few seconds before voting yes on moving forward with the development agreement. Masson’s public skepticism has been refreshing because even in expressing his concerns, he has always been respectful of the city’s intentions and of the views of his fellow council members.

The benefits to the community are obvious: a new hotel with ballroom/convention center; a new music pavilion in the downtown plaza; and the ice arena/multipurpose center.

The final cost to the community is a little fuzzier because there are upfront costs that are expected to be recouped over the next several years through property taxes, sales taxes, $10 million in state money that will be allotted in stages rather than in one lump sum; and individual donations.

I am reminded of a conversation I had many years ago with Mike Grandon, longtime Cerro Gordo County treasurer, about a city project called Northbridge. The main thrust of Northbridge was moving the Fareway store about a block away and developing the area around it. This too involved some city expense that was to be eliminated in time because of the tax revenue the city would receive.

Grandon had no stake in the project whatsoever. Our conversation was just coffee shop talk among friends but he knew more than I did about how these things work.

“Is this a good deal for the city?” I asked him.

“I don’t know,” he said. “Ask me in 20 years.”

That’s always the challenge in economic development.

In the meantime – future nostalgia.

Silly me.

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John Skipper retired from the Globe Gazette in February 2018 after 52 years in newspapers, most of that in Mason City covering North Iowa government and politics.


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