Nugget president, consultant outline plans | NevadaAppeal.com

Nugget president, consultant outline plans

Sandi Hoover
shoover@nevadaappeal.com

Nugget owner Steve Neighbors and consultant Mark Lewis outlined an aggressive plan Monday for a public/private partnership they hope to embark upon with Carson City.

Neighbors told the

14-member Carson Nugget Development Advisory Committee during its first meeting that he has no intention of forcing the project on the city.

“The economic viability of Nevada is going to have to go through a change and rethink its economic base,” Neighbors said. “Carson City is a diamond in the rough … and it could be different if it wants to be different (because) it’s in for some economic tough times as unemployment continues to degrade.”

“If Carson City doesn’t want to do this, then I will focus on getting the optimum value I can get (for the Nugget),” he said. “I don’t want to force anything on the community they don’t want to do.”

Neighbors said public/private partnerships have been around for decades and that as a businessman, he intends to follow guidelines established by the Urban Land Institute for helping guarantee success.

“If the community does well, the Nugget will do well,” he said.

Lewis said an economic report showed that 40 percent of government workers and more than 50 percent of Carson Tahoe Regional Healthcare workers don’t live in Carson City.

“They spend their money someplace else. You’re leaking business and you’re leaking sales tax,” he said.

Panel members also learned that several developers are interested in working on the project and are expected to be on board within the next couple of months, but that a stringent vetting process would be followed.

Lewis said once someone has been selected, details will be dependent upon what the developer is willing to risk and invest.

“We want to make sure the developer makes a profit, but a fair profit,” he said.

Lewis explained that according to the ULI, a public/private partnership focuses on mutual goals as well as leveraging mutual resources.

Panel members asked why a library was selected as the public cornerstone for the project.

“Part of economic development is to create an economic catalyst that will drive people into that area,” as the Aces ballpark did on his most recent project in Reno, Lewis said.

Neighbors agreed, saying that the library is about the future.

“A turnaround is reinventing your future when the basic economy is in stress,” he said. “I can’t do this by myself, nor do I want to … all turnarounds I’ve been successful at are because they wanted to be involved, to be competitive and relevant. Fear is at the basis of the naysayers. We’re asking the city to be proactive.”

The public portion of the $80 million project would likely be about $40 million, funded through a 1⁄8-cent sales tax increase as well as redevelopment district property tax increment funds known as TIFs.

“The developer gets the loan. We’re not asking the city to get bonds,” Neighbors said.

City Manager Larry Werner said other sources also were available such as RTC transit funds, sewer and water funds and possibly other alternatives.

Committee member Dwight Millard was concerned about all the vacancies throughout town, but Lewis said part of the purpose of the project is to generate enough interest in downtown to help draw people and businesses to the area.

“We are talking about starting up the business incubators early before the project to help fill those vacancies,” Lewis said. “The government sector is declining, the private sector is declining. We have to create new industry to fill that space.”

Millard also was worried about the parking needs to be shared by the Nugget, the library and businesses, but Lewis said all of those needs will be taken into consideration when a parking study is conducted.

“You lead with the parking (on any project),” he said, “and we’re right on point with that.”

About 75 people attended the panel’s first meeting.

Werner said the committee’s role would be to decide whether the partnership can work and whether the investment is sound.