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Talks continue around a possible expansion and renovation of the Civic Center


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After voters raised their voices, rejecting the most recent link surrounding the renovation and expansion of the Amarillo Civic Center complex in November, Amarillo officials are looking for other ways to fund the project.

During Tuesday’s Amarillo city council meeting, the council is expected to take action on a pre-development contract with Garfield Public / Private LLC for professional services related to the Amarillo Civic Center complex. According to the agenda item, the costs for this pre-development period should not exceed $ 494,200 if the contract is approved.

History of Civic Center expansion plans

It comes after a committee was appointed earlier this year to examine the possibilities of a public / private partnership to fund improvements and potential expansion of the civic center complex. Amarillo voters have rejected a $ 275 million bond issue to help fund the $ 319 million civic center project proposed in November.

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But 2020 was not the first time voters have raised their voices regarding the Civic Center complex. City manager Jared Miller said the first needs assessment for the facility was completed in 2012, with the first bond election not being passed by voters in 2016.

After the failed 2020 bond election, Miller said it was important for the city to understand possible next steps regarding improvements to the facility.

“What came out of that was the desire to understand where do we go from here, after the failed November 2020 election. What we heard in that election was, ‘Yes, we want to. totally do the project. We just don’t want to spend that much. We don’t want to have such a tax increase, ”Miller said.

At the last city council meeting, Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson said the city was looking for a way forward on the project.

“This is where we are as a board, just wanting to know how we go ahead and plan the project,” she said. “The existing facility has desperate needs and is not competitive. So you have to know. We listened to citizens and we heard what they were saying. We have appreciated this contribution, and now we must move forward with this contribution in mind. It is precisely this contribution that will guide us on how we move forward.

Committee conclusions

Andrew Freeman, director of city planning and development services and committee member, told council the committee had met with five potential public / private partners, with the committee recommending Garfield as the best option after many meetings.

“We think it makes sense to bring in a private partner to work with us on this business, to look at different opportunities, review our numbers, look at our revenue streams, maybe consider other ways to tap into the business. ‘installation that would save money and make this project viable,’ he said.

Jason Herrick, another committee member, said Garfield was the best match for Amarillo, helping the city shift the burdens and cost of a potential civic center complex project to the private market rather than d ” have an impact on taxpayers.

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“The vote that took place in November, for me, was very clear,” he said. “If we want to do a project that looks like this, it can’t look like what we did. We need to ease the burden on property tax owners, or it’s not something the citizens of Amarillo (are) going to want to do. ”

Garfield is a national developer who focuses on public and private partnerships, Greg Garfield, president of the company, told the board at its last meeting. The company has hosted projects ranging from performing arts centers to government office buildings in cities such as Salt Lake City, Abilene and Atlanta, as well as the Buddy Holly Hall of Performing Arts and Sciences in Lubbock.

Garfield told the board that his organization would be able to help identify potential private finance and funding options for the project, including private philanthropy and naming rights, as well as identify as much of the initial contribution as possible to reduce the amount of funding.

This pre-development strategic plan would serve as a “solid foundation,” Garfield said, giving council a plan for the potential of the project, how much it will cost, what its benefits might be for the community as well as public investment.

The process also includes conversations surrounding the scope of the project and identifying priorities, Garfield said. The organization would use the plans outlined during the many years of talks surrounding this project.

“We would like to see all the documents. I think the more up-to-date the document, the more relevant the information will be, ”he told the council. “But we want to get all of this information, and we want to capitalize on any good ideas that may have been produced by these other reports. But we think what’s generally different about the report we provide is that it’s a comprehensive plan. It’s not just a needs assessment, it’s not just a market student, it’s not just an architectural master plan. How is it financed? How do you prepare the case? Who is going to own it? … It really is a comprehensive plan; this is what we intend to provide.

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Miller said it would be the first time the city has considered a public / private partnership for a project. He stressed that the city would not consider this approach to the project unless it is of benefit to the community.

“We wouldn’t do a public / private partnership if it didn’t benefit our taxpayers,” he said. “That would be the only motive to do something like this, to make a project like this possible. It is a great generational project that does not come about easily.

This pre-development services agreement kicks off the process, Miller said, identifying what is needed regarding the Civic Center Complex project before creating a refined proposal. It would consist of a feasibility analysis and a general recommendation for the future of the project.

While there is no guarantee the project can come out of that deal with Garfield, Miller believes that investment should be made.

“Someone may ask, ‘Why would you spend over $ 400,000 on something that might not go to a project? “, Miller said. “We’re talking hundreds of millions of dollars… so it’s a prudent investment to explore all the opportunities we have to make this project a reality. It’s a project that I believe most people in our community want to see come to fruition. It’s just a project where we haven’t found the right price and scope to be able to give the community what they want.

And after?

If city council approves the deal with Garfield, Miller said the city expects the deal to be concluded by the end of the calendar year, which would also include two fiscal years for the city. Although this pre-development services agreement is the first phase, there could be later phases that will flow from the agreement down the road if it is successful.

“It’s still a significant amount of money. But it’s also an investment in identifying how we can move forward in one of the greatest opportunities or challenges, however you choose to view it, which we’ll have to decide. of how we are moving forward, ”Miller said. “The Civic Center is something that we just can’t (make a decision on). We need to figure out how to take care of this investment that we have had, made and nurtured for the past 50+ years.

The City Council meeting will be held Tuesday at 1 pm in the City Council Chamber, located on the third floor of City Hall, located at 601 S. Buchanan. For more information on the city of Amarillo, visit www.amarillo.gov.

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Mary Cashion

The author Mary Cashion