Conference Center Stalls
Progress has stalled for the proposed conference center on the Platte River Commons, according to the chairman of the board that oversees the development of the former Amoco refinery property.
"It's highly unlikely there will be any ground broken in 2015," Bryce Row said Wednesday after the monthly meeting of the Amoco Reuse Agreement Joint Powers Board.
It's not for a lack of interest, Row said.
"'Still proceeding' I think is the best way to put it," he said. "We've had some structural changes as far as how it was shaped and we are now looking back at those things and moving forward with what we know."
By "structural changes," Row said the mix of financing is being revised. "We know the city's committed, we know the county's committed, we know the board is committed."
But not all the commitments have come through.
Public funds were to be used for the infrastructure and the conference center. The hotel itself is a private development, but critical to the project.
Progress on the conference center accelerated last year with the promise of construction to begin this spring.
In February 2014, the State Loan and Investment Board, acting on a recommendation from the Wyoming Business Council, reluctantly approved a $2.5 million loan for infrastructure on the site.
In June 2014, the city council approved a pass-through lease of agreement of 17 acres for the conference center. The city planned to spend almost $5.1 million to lease the land, and then sublease the same property to a private developer.
The ARAJPB also pledged a $6 million loan for infrastructure.
In January, City Manager John Patterson said the company with the hotel was on the verge of formally signing a lease with the city.
The on-the-verge talk about the hotelier signing agreements continued for a couple of months.
And then it stopped.
In March, Row said the Wyoming Business Council backed out of its $2.5 million pledge to the project.
And the commitment of the hotelier, JJM Hotel Group, wasn't fixed, he said.
"The firm commitment on their part is absolutely still there," Row said. "There are some things we need, structurally, for the municipalities involved, for the public board involved to go forward. And as of right now we're kind of at an impasse with that."
While the JJM Hotel Group is still interested, the joint powers board probably will be talking with other hoteliers as well, Row said.
"It could move in a different direction from that," he said. "We'll be contacting different groups and operators in the near future."
Despite the recent changes, talks continue among the interested parties, marketing possibilities are strong, and much of the proposed funding remains in place, Row said.
But he also acknowledged there may come a time when the conference center project ends, he said.
"As far as a hard date, no," Row said. "In the event we are reaching a stalling point, I think that conversation would happen pretty quickly."