Like a game of tennis, Palmetto on Monday returned the ball back to Manatee County by voting on a conceptual financial agreement to help fund the proposed new Bradenton Area Convention Center hotel, but only in “theory,” according to Commissioner Tambra Varnadore.
“Before I approve anything, I’m going to need some more concrete stuff,” Varnadore said. “I’m not even going to call this agreement conceptual. I’m going to call it a theory and I need something more from the county, a resolution or something, that they are on board with this whole plan. I don’t want to assume they are on board, and then have changes.”
Varnadore said, “In the past, they have done things and then those things have changed.”
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The hotel project received approval from Manatee County in September, however, the approval is based on the pending financial agreement and partnership with the city of Palmetto and the Community Redevelopment Agency. The CRA is proposing to borrow $8.5 million to help pay for the $69 million project.
In exchange, the CRA will receive county property to the north of the convention center and will own the land lease agreement for the hotel for up to 60 years. As the land lease holder, the CRA would collect the tax revenue once the hotel is open.
City attorney Mark Barnebey said the county was asked for a more definitive commitment to Palmetto’s financial partnership proposal, “and I would expect that would be a contingency of our financial participation.”
As part of the agreement, the CRA will seek $1.5 million in economic development grant money for road improvements in the area, including an extension of Seventh Street East to Haben Boulevard. However, the developer, Improvement Network Development Partners LLC, will pay for the project whether the grant is secured or not.
INDP also has agreed to be a major sponsor for the city’s annual Fourth of July Festival in the amount of $10,000 per year through 2049.
According to the partnership agreement, hearings to rezone the property and site plan applications would begin in the first quarter of 2017 and construction would be completed by 2018. However, CRA Director Jeff Burton said the timeline may need to be adjusted depending on which direction the CRA pursues to secure the $8.5 million.
We’ve been stuck with conceptual before.
Palmetto Commissioner Brian Williams
Though the commission approved the conceptual partnership agreement, the vote came with a tone of caution.
“I have some of the same concerns,” said Commissioner Brian Williams. “We’ve been stuck with conceptual before.”
Barnebey said he expects to have something in writing from the county by the end of January. Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant said city and county staff working on the project will meet this week and have that conversation, as well.
Once completed, the hotel is expected to supply 400 permanent jobs and hundreds of temporary construction jobs. The conceptual site plan calls for a 250-room full service 204,000-square foot hotel, 17,000 square feet of public meeting space which encompasses an 8,000-square-foot ballroom and 9,800 square feet of other meeting room space.
It includes 4,100 square feet of restaurant space seating 240 people, as well as a proposed 150-seat Link@Sheraton Cafe. Other amenities include a pool, hot tub, HDTV lounge, business center and full-service concierge. The developer hopes to launch a shuttle service to area attractions and a water taxi to Manatee County beaches. Includes an 18,000-square-foot entertainment district between the hotel and convention center for a restaurant and other retail space.