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CIVIC CENTER Developers to take more time for plans



Published: Thu, July 25, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The city won't provide money for operation or maintenance but will consider a ticket tax.

By ROGER G. SMITH

CITY HALL REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Developers will get an extra month to come up with their visions for a downtown civic center.

The deadline was moved Wednesday from Aug. 12 to Sept. 16 after city officials met with about a dozen companies interested in the project.

Several companies immediately took Mayor George M. McKelvey up on his suggestion that an extension on the August date was possible. The city already has set an aggressive pace, so a few weeks more won't hurt the project, McKelvey said.

"We understand it's a large task," he said. "We don't want to have a week or two ... take a good project off the table."

The city wants to pick a project within a month after the proposals come in.

Two weeks ago, the city sent out about 50 requests for proposals for a civic center.

Possibilities

The request seeks proposals for one or more types of buildings. Among the options: a 6,500- to 8,500-seat arena; a convention or conference center; a 200- to 250-room hotel; and a public recreation facility.

Wednesday, the city's largest architectural and engineering firms and about eight other out-of-town companies gathered at the Youngstown Club. They heard more about the project and asked questions about the city's request for proposals.

Among the more notable out-of-town companies:

Landmark Organization of Austin, Texas. The company is building the Hilton Omaha Convention Center Hotel in Nebraska.

NBBJ, a nationwide architectural, design and planning firm. The company has been involved in stadiums big and small. A project similar to the city's is the Cintas Center at Xavier University in Cincinnati.

Opus, a nationwide firm that does real estate development, architecture work and construction.

McKelvey stressed the public-private nature of the project.

What's required

Any proposal must have a "community center" aspect to it as outlined by the federal government in the $26.8 million grant for the project, he said. The government, however, understands the need for the private sector to develop and profit from the project, he said. Revenue generated by the private use of the building, such as from professional sports, must also cover operation of the public use, he said.

"We have every confidence we will be able to strike a partnership," McKelvey said.

The city will not provide any money for operation or maintenance, he said. The city will, however, consider enacting a ticket tax to supplement revenue for the developer, he said.

There was a good cross section of local and national development-oriented companies at the meeting, said Steven L. Peters, president of Compass Facility Management. Compass is city's consultant on project selection.

Peters is curious about how much buzz will be about Youngstown at an upcoming national conference of facility mangers.

The plusses of the project, including $26.8 million in federal funding, availability of big tax breaks, a good site and a city ready to act, make Youngstown the best development opportunity in the nation at the moment, Peters said.

rgsmith@vindy.com




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