Guy W. Farmer: Too many questions linger over Nugget project
The more I learn about the $80 million Nugget Redevelopment Project, the less I like it. So I think Mayor Bob Crowell and supervisors should answer several important questions before putting local taxpayers on the hook for $40 million to help pay for this grandiose scheme.
A recent headline raises a big warning flag: “Details of financing yet to be determined.” We saw that same ominous headline when Max Baer Jr.’s Beverly Hills Hotel-Casino project began to fall apart.
Supervisor candidate Day Williams got it right when he said the Nugget project is simply too risky in tough economic times. “The city is at risk to lose millions of dollars (and) could be stuck with a beautiful library it can’t afford to operate,” he wrote. Meanwhile, he added, the Nugget assumes no financial risk.
Recently, we learned more about the checkered history of the project’s main consultant/promoter, Mark Lewis, and its developer, P3 Development, of Sacramento. According to the Appeal, Lewis “most recently served as Reno’s redevelopment director … until he was forced out” due to budget cuts.
In 2006 the Stockton (Calif.) Record reported that Lewis’ “aggressive and secretive style (had) sometimes embarrassed the Council and alienated the public.” Is this the kind of person we want to do business with?
Rick Oshinski, the CEO of P3 Development, says he wants to develop a “gathering place” for Carsonites in the downtown business district. He, Lewis and their oh-so-sophisticated supporters use terms like “holistic business incubator” and “knowledge center” to describe what they’re going to build with our money.
I have nothing against office buildings or libraries, but I wonder why they feel compelled to use New Age terminology instead of plain English to sell the project to local taxpayers.
And although I love libraries, I question the need for a large “knowledge center” when we already have three perfectly good libraries in town: the Carson City Library, the State Library and the Western Nevada College Library. How many libraries do we need in our medium-sized state capital? We also already have at least two popular “gathering places” – Mills Park and the Legislative Plaza, where a number of civic events are held.
Nugget President Steve Neighbors says he’s concentrating on “the big picture” while Lewis admits that it will be months before detailed answers to financial questions can be answered. I’ll close by reiterating a question I asked in an earlier column on this project: What’s the hurry?
• Guy W. Farmer, a semi-retired journalist, has been a Carson City resident since 1962.