City Council Considers Private Convention Center
Lead us to a convention center, and hopefully deliver us from ever having to go through this again.
CRU Casper LLC, which bought the Parkway Plaza a year ago, has been working with Casper officials about a convention -- no longer "conference" -- center south of the hotel, community development director Liz Becher told city council during a work session Tuesday.
This time, the responsibility is mostly on the developer instead of some of the messier public-private proposals in years past.
Becher outlined a three-phase process for the concept, design and construction of the convention center.
"We're asking the developer with phase one to talk about and provide conceptual drawings for the actual convention center concept," Becher said.
It would start with council approving a memorandum of understanding with the developer, Costa Mesa, Calif.-based CRU Real Estate Group, the parent company of CRU Casper, LLC.
The developer's proposal so far includes a 40,000-square-foot facility would have a 25,000-square-foot ballroom plus offices and other rooms, she said. This would be submitted to the city by Sept. 30. The drawings would include the building footprint, parking, floor plans, utility connections and other basic infrastructure.
The company also would submit a rough cost estimate, and documents necessary for the city to conduct due diligence about market influences, financial statements, working capital and so forth.
The city's obligations would include the cleaning the area of the North Platte River as part of the ongoing, and usually grant-financed, Platte River Revival. The city also would rename West E Street "Parkway Plaza Drive." The hotel is the only occupant on the street.
There also would be a mutual obligation of confidentiality.
If CRU or the city doesn't like what's happening, the deal is dead.
If it lives, CRU would move to the second phase with a site plan, construction budget, proposed landscaping, and recreational access to the river.
The city would provide conceptual drawings to beautify and improve West D and E streets, the North Center Street railroad underpass. The drawings would include traffic management improvements, and proposals for better lighting.
The city also would submit a letter of commitment for those improvements.
The deadline for the second phase would be Feb. 28.
To this point, the city's only expense would be labor, Becher said. "There's staff time, but no hard bucks."
Again, if CRU or the city doesn't like what's happening, the deal is dead.
If it lives, they move to phase three.
CRU would obtain the permits and begin construction, with an estimated completion date of March 31, 2018.
Meanwhile, the city would make its improvements. It also would install directional signage to the convention center at the developer's expense, she said.
The city needs to maintain its infrastructure regardless of the what happens with the convention center, such as repairing the crumbling concrete on the North Center Street underpass, City Manager V.H. McDonald said. "We're going to need to do that anyway."
For the city's part, the money is already in the bank, Becher said after her presentation.
The city set aside about $5 million for the last proposal for a conference center, which would have been built on the old Amoco refinery site now known as the Platte River Commons.
The $5 million was to lease the land on the Commons and then sublease it to a private contractor. That stalled out for good a year ago.
Other proposals that came and went included a major project downtown, and a conference center-hotel complex next to the Casper Events Center.
This time, the public commitment comes with a lot more caution, Becher said. "We have outs, so that if there is not delivery on either sides party, we can back out."