As the Post-Gazette headlined the story, a private developer’s plan for a “North Side Ferris wheel, apartment and marina development gets big Pa. funding commitment.”

That is, taxpayers will have their pockets picked to the tune of $10 million to, as the P-G characterizes it, help fund an “ambitious plan to convert an old industrial stretch of the Ohio riverfront into a wonderland featuring a giant Ferris wheel, a marina, retail outlets, apartments and a splash park.”


Millcraft Investments is behind what’s described as a $600 million project, still in the planning stages and in yet another iteration. The $10 million grant comes from the state’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program, or RACP.

(Long ago, as editorial page editor of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, I opined that a better name for this program – because of its lack of accountability — would have been the Capital Redevelopment Assistance Program. You can construct the acronym for this agency on your own; just follow the boldfaced letters.)

Additional development at the site is planned if market conditions warrant it, it is reported. And developers claim this project will not only “connect the neighborhoods to the river and create an inclusive community for people to visit, live, work and play, it will also generate millions of dollars annually in taxes that can be used for additional community improvements.”

That’s all well and good. But why should taxpayers have any skin – oh, let’s call it what it is: risk – in this game to begin with?

Again, from the P-G story:

“The Pennsylvania Economy League has estimated the 15-acre development will generate 7,100 construction jobs over a six-year, two-phase construction period and 4,500 jobs once it is finished and stabilized. It also estimates it will generate $880 million in annual spending.”

Now, we’ve long exposed how such “benefits” projections roundly are inflated. But inflated or not, taxpayers have no business being turned into venture capitalists for private concerns.

Oh, and one can only wonder if those construction workers will be paid the “prevailing wage,” which would inflate the cost of the project by about 25 percent. Maybe that’s why Millcraft “needs” the public coin?

And, by the way, those 4,500 other jobs touted? Given the nature of this project, they’re most likely in the service-providing industry and not in the skilled professions. That is, lower-paying jobs.

If Millcraft’s “Esplanade” project is truly such a great economic generator – and Millcraft would not be building it unless it thought it can reap multimillion-dollar returns — why do taxpayers have to help subsidize it?


Why do taxpayers have to spot Millcraft $10 million?


Simply put, Millcraft should pay for its own “wonderland.”

Colin McNickle is communications and marketing director at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (cmcnickle@alleghenyinstitute.org).