Hilldale hole in the ground
This space near Hilldale Shopping Center remains empty after Whole Foods abandoned plans to build here. This picture is from June 2008 -- a Target retail store was approved for the site in March 2010, and an apartment project was proposed for the westernmost section in May 2010. MIKE DeVRIES - The Capital Times

Ever since Whole Foods dropped plans to open a 55,000-square-foot store at the revamped Hilldale Shopping Center, owner Joseph Freed & Associates has been looking for new tenants. Target Corp., interested in buying a large swath of land on the shopping center’s west side to build a 140,000-square-foot store, has emerged as a promising candidate.

No doubt recent setbacks for Freed & Associates make the sale to Target more attractive than ever.

Last week the company lost its battle to keep control of its Block 37 project in downtown Chicago — just as the first stores were getting ready to open.

A Cook County Circuit judge ruled that Freed & Associates didn’t have the resources to finish the high-profile project on State Street and placed it in the hands of a receiver.

“We strongly disagree with the court’s ruling,” Larry Freed, president of the firm, said in a statement. “We are the only developer in two decades to move Block 37 forward. We are very suspicious of the bank’s motives just as Block 37 is opening and beginning to generate revenue.”

Bank of America, lead lender on a $205 million construction loan, told the court Block 37 was $42.6 million over budget and Freed had no way to fund its completion. Both sides have agreed that about $71.9 million is still needed to complete the project.

Target’s plans for the store are in the approval process with the city of Madison.

Tax collections lag

One sure sign the recession is easing will be an increase in state and local tax collections.

We’re not there yet.

Preliminary tax collection data for the July-September quarter of 2009 show continued sharp declines in most states for all major sources of tax revenue.

An analysis of new Census Bureau data by the Rockefeller Institute shows collections fell 10.7 percent to $119.7 billion in the third quarter of 2009, compared to $134.0 billion during the comparable quarter of 2008.

Corporate income taxes saw the sharpest rate of decline at 19.4 percent, followed by personal income and sales taxes at 11.4 and 8.2 percent, respectively.

In Wisconsin, tax collections fell 9.7 percent in the third quarter although corporate collections were actually up 9.2 percent, suggesting that companies are doing better than a year ago.

When states don’t have money to collect, it puts more pressure on government to either cut costs or raise taxes. And politicians haven’t shown the guts to do either.