Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Fairgrounds Project at a Stand-Still

Council members call proposal "half-baked" and "pie in the sky."

Posted on Tue, Feb 17, 2009 at 4:00 AM

Mayor Willie Herenton attended the City Council's Economic Development committee meeting this morning to address members' concerns about the proposed fairgrounds redevelopment project.

By the end, however, he said, "Based on what I'm hearing publicly, we are no where ... near to doing this project."

Herenton said he was weary of "the innuendos."

"I keep hearing there are councilmembers ... concerned about development fees," said Herenton. "At the end of the day we're going to do this project or we're not.

"What are your issues?"

Under the proposal, the developer, Henry Turley (full disclosure: Turley is one of Contemporary Media's stockholders) is set to get $9.5 million in development fees.

Funding for the project would be generated by $50 million in retail sales.

Council members Barbara Swearengen Ware and Kemp Conrad both called that plan into question:

"I hate to use the terminology, but it sounds a little pie in the sky," said Ware.

"It's predicated on $100 million in retail sales, but the economy is not good right now. People are not spending money," Conrad said, calling the proposal "half-baked."

Herenton then said that based on what he was hearing from the council, the project was not ready to be moved forward and that he would instead focus on the stadium upgrades required by the department of justice.

The council plans to schedule a three-hour meeting to discuss the fairgrounds proposal in detail.

For more, visit Mary Cashiola's In the Bluff blog.

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