Paducah City Commissioners vote on aquatic center and TIF, leaving Lingate Hospitality on the agenda Wednesday
Paducah City Commissioners held a ‘do over’ meeting Tuesday evening to discuss the amendment pertaining to the aquatic center. As most know, the pause button was pushed on the aquatic center until January 2021. Commissioner Brenda Mcelroy had asked for a vote on an amendment to the original order that would allow Paducah City Manager Jim Arndt to continue due diligence on the project if necessary during the pause.
Both Commissioners’ Richard Abraham and Gerald Watkins were in opposition to the amendment. They cited money as the driving factor for opposition. Abraham said his inbox was full with requests from citizens to stop all work on the project. Watkins stated that he thought if the city manager was able to continue due diligence without spending any additional taxpayer money, he was all for it.
Commissioner Sandra Wilson pointed out that Lose Designs submitted a rate sheet to the city manager in case potential questions arose between now and next year. Questions that needed to be answered by the architect and not the city manager. Wilson said the fees are potential expenditures not definitive expenditures and if necessary, the cost would be minimal.
Paducah Mayor Brandi Harless said she understood the major issues that concerned Paducah citizens were three-fold. First, the lack of private dollars available to help with the cost. Second, the community wanted more input on what the project looks like including inclusion policies and programs. Third, the business model might not be the right model.
Commissioner McElroy discussed the importance of having city amenities in order to be attractive to potential employers. She cited the book Live First Work Second: Getting Inside the Head of the Next Generation. The idea is to motivate local leaders to build a bright future by attracting the next generation of employees to organizations and communities. At the end of the day, the vote was 3 - 2 in favor of adopting an ordinance as amended.
The next ordinance introduced was the City Block Project with developer Weyland Ventures. There were discussions about parking and the possibility of another developer that may have interest in building a hotel downtown. Commissioner Watkins introduced the idea of a potential local developer as someone with a different location in mind that would keep the city block as is. No further details were given.
Mayor Brandi Harless said this is the kind of movement that a TIF project will bring to the table, it gets other developers interested in projects. Weyland Ventures is ready to invest, rejuvenate, and provide jobs to the tune of $21 million dollars now. The project is vibrant and right at the foot of Broadway. Weyland Ventures will help improve infrastructure, lighting, and visibility.
“There are other TIF projects that are just waiting for developers.” said Harless. She mentioned the Kresge Building and the Showroom Lounge. All within the TIF district. It’s a ‘boom’, one project will lead to the next.
Arndt said the community space, mixed-use buildings, and boutique hotel are just the beginning of redevelopment. He said, “That’s what TIF’s do.” After discussion, Mayor Harless introduced an amendment on capping the amount of money spent on environmental remediation.
During Phase 1 and Phase 2, no major environmental issues were discovered. The cap is a ‘just in case’ there are issues. If so, it will be TIF eligible meaning money can be reimbursed to the city. The board voted on the amended portion of the ordinance with 4 - 1 in favor of adding the amended order. Abraham was the dissenting vote.
The last order of business will be voted on tomorrow evening but was up for discussion this evening. Discussions were over First Right of Refusal for land currently tied up with Lingate Hospitality (Holiday Inn). Lingate would like to extend their agreement with the city regarding land for another potential hotel.
The group has agreed to have $300,000 on the table as a purchase price with the understanding that if they buy the land, they have to build either a full service hotel or a boutique hotel with retail space on the first floor. The contract would be for two years.