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Steve Neighbors: City Center Project can lead Carson City to brighter future

Steve Neighbors

The article “Nugget Chief Discusses Downtown Project” on Sept. 16, regarding my presentation to the Nevada Business Connection, was void of the key information.

We are in a difficult time in Carson City, with high unemployment that continues to climb. We need jobs that create family security, including opportunities that keep our youth here contributing to a strong Carson City. As a turnaround practitioner, any entity, be it a business, church, or even a city, must have at least these three elements for a successful turnaround.

1) Strategy: Carson must have a strategy that makes us relevant in the future

2) Synergistic leverage of resources: Carson must maximize our resources to optimize our results

3) United effort: We must unite to execute our strategy, for “a house divided cannot stand.”

The heart of my message is that we must have “ears that hear,” if we are to create a common vision, a holistic plan to address our economic situation. The plan must benefit all stakeholders.

Change is not easy. Finding the right direction can be difficult and facts can be distorted through self-interest and warped ideology during the process. During development of a turnaround plan, fear-based rumors are common. Opportunists abound who want to trumpet fear and conspiracy. Self interest groups and individuals attempt to gain advantages, entitlements, and power by distortion. They would plug ears so they cannot hear. But a public process and extreme diligence to vet the options is in process.

A turnaround has short-term, mid-term and long-term tactics. I shared the successes to date due to those who have united sacrificially across political or religious ideologies; even business competitors have united. They have the “ears to hear and a heart to understand.” They have brought ideas and resources to share and leverage, all by sacrificial effort.

We are in process of getting financial funds coming for business. We are gaining access to patents and licenses. Those working together are attracting new industries. I would think this was key information that should have made news.

There are critical aspects of the City Center Project that will help jolt Carson City into a bright future. The project is just one component of the turnaround plan. But, we’ve seen incorrect information and self-centered countereffort that put the project at risk. Here are some key points.

1) A state-of-the-art library is proposed as the centerpiece icon of Carson City, not a casino.

2) A public/private partnership does not mean public funds for private development as has been stated by some critics. It means working together – public funds for public issues, private funds for private issues, all in one master plan.

3) All stakeholders have a voice. We’ve listened to the voices within the community and we’ve created an advisory committee that has met with the City Center developer, P3, several times.

4) We are working with Gov. Gibbons’ office on the issue of whether state offices will be located within the City Center. There was some miscommunication up front and we are still working on solutions as well as other potential opportunities.

5) The plan includes a free parking garage for all. The current master plan notes locations for two different parking garages.

6) The narrowing of the streets is NOT being driven by the project but is a separate decision by the city, but may have an impact on the amount of garage parking needed.

7) The plan will not put Carson City in debt. P3 will finance the project 100 percent without the city guaranteeing the debt. There is a simple lease to own on the public section. This concept is herculean for P3. Plans are in play to meet with the advisory committee on Sept. 27, where they will deal with the overall master concept.

8) No one benefits from the land but the community. Mae Adam’s intent for her foundation ensures that point. She has given an opportunity for the community to share what they think should go on her land. She proposes a fair market lease for the ground paid to her foundation.

This structure allows less debt for the developer, lets the foundation meets it obligation to not liquidate its assets while immediately committing the use of that key asset for good of the community.

The ground lease will be at or below market rate as determined by an appraiser. If the community chooses to put a library on her land, all the proceeds gained from the library portion of that lease will be turned back to the Library Board to keep the library state of the art. This gift to the library is perpetual.

The same arrangement can be made for a public plaza as well, funding public and youth activities. All other lease proceeds from the land will go to the Mae Adams Foundation for the benefit of the community. The Nugget does not get a dime from its land which is being donated to the foundation.

Let’s put the “Community First” and not our fears and self-interests.

• Steve Neighbors is president of the Carson Nugget and trustee of the Mae B. Adams Trust.