In a wholly uncharacteristic move, Rhino Times Editor John Hammer broke some news online on Tuesday. It’s the first time, I think, that Hammer’s gotten ahead of his print schedule like that to harness the power of the World Wide Web. He even pushed it out on social media. And normally I would commend my friend’s pivot to using digital tools as a means to satisfy his paper’s mission. Only his paper’s mission these days is to carry water for his publisher, developer Roy Carroll, who was the primary source for Hammer’s 1,500-word newsflash.
In it, he describes a phone call between his boss and Mayor Nancy Vaughan, in which she informed Carroll that the city would not be funding his proposed parking deck — not the one behind Cone Denim Entertainment Center, the other one, by the ballpark.
It’s a pretty big hit for Carroll Companies, which had leveraged the parking lot into another deal, Project Slugger (who names these things?), in the area by the ballpark where his massive hotel/office/residential complex nears completion. It all hinged on the city’s $30 million reimbursement for his deck, planned for Bellemeade Street — not to be confused with the actual Bellemeade Parking Deck, which is the one with the murals on it.
“We stand to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars as a result of the city’s departure from good-faith negotiations over the deck that the city authorized us to design,” Hammer’s boss told him. “Our company has extensive man-hours invested and we have given notice to tenants we have on our parking lot due to the city’s pressing us to move forward on this project.”
It’s a strange development, to be sure — the story’s other source, Downtown Greensboro Inc. President Zack Matheny, seemed to be caught flatfooted.
But Mayor Vaughan gave some context on Wednesday morning.
“The Rhino story is not entirely accurate,” she said. “We’ve been working on details [of this project] for a year now. We were unable to come to terms on this particular project at this time.”
As for sticking points in the deal, she said, “Oh, there were tons of them.”
“But we will be happy to work with [Carroll] on his hotel and office project when he’s ready.”
So kudos to Hammer for successfully navigating the digital landscape this one time. I wonder how long it took him to remember his Facebook password.
Unfortunately, by using his brand to spread a one-sided, heavily editorialized piece about his boss, he turned himself into a digital tool in the process.