I attended the meeting today since the Harrison Square project was inserted into the agenda at the last minute.
At 2 PM I checked the Cities website and downloaded the agenda for the meeting. The agenda did NOT yet include Harrison Square.
It was added at the last minute.
At the beginning of the meeting Greg Leatherman made a point of letting us know that it was a Public Meeting and that the "public" would not be allowed to comment or participate.
The recently released Memorandums of Understanding were NOT distributed to the public at the meeting during which they were discussed. I found this VERY surprising... It seems that the documents were released to the Downtown Fort Wayne Baseball Blog just before the meeting; but, no copies were provided to the public at the meeting. The lack of information is incredible...
The first thing that was discussed was the Cities option to purchase the Omnisource site. The option expires on 12/31/07 and is not renewable.
Several other things were discussed, basically the normal business of the Commission.
Last but not least were the two Memorandums involving Harrison Square...
The first Memorandum discussed the hotel. I noted several interesting things:
1. These documents are NOT contracts. They are just a beginning for formal negotiations. They are not binding.
2. This next comment from the City blew me away and I think it will you as well. The City currently expects the hotel to have ABOUT 250 rooms. It could still have more or less rooms. The exact number of rooms has not been determined yet.
3. A Cred Credit of six to nine million is anticipated. This is new news to me; I have always heard it would be six million.
4. The parking garage will have to set aside 300 parking spaces for the motel. The motel will have to pay the City a small parking fee for use of the parking spaces. The fee will have to cover operating and maintenance costs on the garage. The fee will not cover ANY of the capital costs. The hotel can charge what they want for the parking spaces, The City will only get the small fee to cover operating and maintenance costs.
5. This next item COMPLETELY blew me away. The hotel will be allowed to keep a portion of the Innkeepers tax that it collects. No other hotel in Fort Wayne that I know of is allowed this subsidy. The amount of this subsidy was not disclosed to the public.
6. The City is still pursuing more incentives that have not yet been quantified. These include the New Markets Tax Credit and further incentives.
The members of the Redevelopment Commission asked some pretty good questions. Karen Goldner specifically asked some very good questions. These questions revealed the following:
1. The number of rooms in the hotel could be fewer then 250. In fact, and this is scary, one member of the Redevelopment Commission asked if there was a guarantee that the hotel would have a nominal number of rooms, for example 150 rooms. The Cities answer was no, there was no actual guarantee for a minimum number of rooms. That is still to be negotiated.
2. It became clear that the motel can be less then a full service motel.
Believe it or not, even with the above facts revealed, the Commission approved this Memorandum unanimously.
Next came the second Memorandum which covers the rest of the Harrison Square Project. This Memorandum is even worse for the taxpayers of Fort Wayne.
The cities presentation revealed the following:
1. Once again this is not a contract, just a framework for negotiation.
2. The Baseball Stadium will be up to AA standards.
3. The stadium will be a "depressed bowl: stadium and will have only 5000 seats. There will be an area where other people can be seated on the grass, etc...
4. There will be a minimum of 12 "suites."
5. Hardball Capital will contribute 5 million dollars by the time the stadium opens.
6. There will be 60 condos and 30,000 square feet of retail.
7. This memorandum discusses phase 1. HBC will contribute about 14.5 million to build condos and retail.
8. The final agreement will have benchmarks for the 2nd and 3rd phases. No benchmarks have been agreed to yet!
9. The City will cover the costs of a capital maintenance Fund that will be around $300,000 per year. The naming rights of the stadium will be split with HBC and the City thinks this will cover most of this cost.
10. This part is AMAZING. The Wizards expect the new stadium to have attendance of 360,000 in announced ticket sales. Lets do some math here. If the Wizards play 72 home games and the stadium has 5000 seats. 72 x 5000 = 360,000.
They are projecting sellouts to every game!
11. Stadium Parking revenues have NOT been negotiated.
The Commission members asked several good questions that revealed the following tidbits:
1. HBC is expecting to get about 4 million in Cred from the construction of the retail and condos. This has NOT been included in the public investment.
2. As the agreement stands there is NOTHING in place to force HBC to build the 2nd or 3rd stages of the project. NOTHING. This means that they can decide not to build phase two or three if their condos and retail do not sell... This means that the 14.5 million for phase 2 and the 14.5 million for phase three that the City is counting as Private Investment may never happen...
Per Steve Brody market conditions will determine if phases two and three happen.
3. Check this out. The condos and retail are going to include Meeting Space. This Meeting Space revenue will go to HBC and will compete with the GWC. They now also plan on having some roof seating available aka Wrigley Field.
Even after the above facts came out the Commission approved the Memorandum unanimously.
This just gets worse and worse.
No wonder they do not want to provide any financial information to the public. They cannot afford to let the light of day shine on this project...
I am back to being VERY opposed to Harrison Square.
I am absolutely disgusted by the Mayor's lack of willingness to release information to the public and his insistence on ramming it through City Council without releasing financial information to the public.