Advisory committee questions downtown project

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A citizen's committee formed to study an $87.3 million downtown redevelopment project agreed Monday night to send the project to the board of supervisors for further scrutiny.

P3 Development, which prepared the feasibility study, determined that the project was feasible and had the best chance of success as a public/private partnership.

The $87.3 million budget shows $30.9 million of public investment and $56.4 million in private investment. The public portion of the project would include a knowledge and discovery center, public plaza, infrastructure, digital media lab, parking garage and transit hub.

The private development to start with would be a hotel with 125 rooms and 5,000 square feet of meeting space, and an office building of about 50,000 square feet with tenants to include the Carson City Business Resource and Innovation Center, a business incubator, retail and other general purpose office space.

Although many questions remained unanswered after the feasibility study was presented, City Manager Larry Werner said the purpose of the meeting was to decide whether the results indicated the project deserved a closer look.

"Are we close enough that we can go forward? (If so,) the board of supervisors will decide whether to direct staff to begin the design and development," Werner said.

Rob Hooper, vice-chairman of the committee and director of the Northern Nevada Development Authority, said he was ready to see more details.

"I have a lot of concerns, but I think we need to take a look at the details," he said. "Every study I see says that we have to have something for the kids, so let's get the details. If it doesn't pencil out, I

guarantee P3 won't want to do it and the supervisors wouldn't do it."

Hooper said when he shows business prospects around Carson City through NNDA, the feedback is positive when he tells them about the proposed City

Center Project.

"Their eyes light up - it shows them that the city is looking to its future," he said.

And the digital media lab idea elicits even stronger reactions. He said he believes it will create a positive ripple effect throughout the community.

But many in the standing-room-only meeting said they were worried about a number of other issues.

"There are so many vacant buildings in our community. I cannot see building any more right now," said Fred Brown, a 50-year resident.

And Chet Brown held up his Kindle and said, "Here's the library of the future."

Carol Howell said her main concern is always the cost to taxpayers.

"I'd love to have a new library for my grandson, and I like the idea of an events center, but I object to the cost of all this in this economy," she said.

Committee member Bruce Kittess said he was disappointed that the committee did not receive complete detailed information backing up the feasibility study, and that so many questions remained unanswered, he would have trouble supporting moving forward at this juncture.

Committee member Court Cardinal, general manager of Casino Fandango, said that from his experience, more parking might be needed for the project than the minimum code requirement.

But Michael Salogga, who recently moved to Carson City from Grand Junction, Colo., said the public/private partnership there was extremely successful and created literally thousands of jobs.

Many residents were also concerned about the potential lease/ownership agreement that was proposed in the feasiblilty study.

Steve Neighbors said that by donating lease payments back to the city and library through the Hop & Mae Adams Foundation, the library could stay up to date, even though the Nugget would not be getting as big a return as it could get.

"We may not get the return an investor usually gets, but we're OK with that. Our return is what we give to the community," Neighbors said.

Library Director Sara Jones said that the foundation's support was critical to keeping technology current.

"In my 25-year career, I've never seen an ongoing funding source," she said.

Werner also assured the committee that if there turned out to be any sort of funding gap, the project would not move forward as proposed.

"If funds are not available, we scale back, maybe a smaller knowledge and discovery library, for instance," he said.

The study will likely be brought to the board of supervisors sometime before the end of the year. If officials decide to ask for design and development details, the results will go back before the advisory committee again.


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