Alpharetta appears ready to publicly discuss the idea of a city-owned convention center at Avalon. A memorandum of understanding is on Council’s agenda for Monday night.
Back in the Spring the city requested proposals from developers for a public/private partnership that would pair a city-owned convention center with a privately built hotel. The city received proposals from North American Properties, developer of the Avalon project, and from the owners of the Northwinds property at Haynes Bridge and GA-400.
Alpharetta has determined Avalon to be the preferred proposal. Up until this point negotiations have occurred in private. However the memo outlines some non-binding terms that indicate how the deal might be structured.
Under the plan Alpharetta would sell revenue bonds and help service them with an increase in the hotel occupancy tax. The bonds would pay for construction of the 47,000 square foot convention center on Avalon’s land. Avalon would build the facility and bear the construction risks and any cost overruns. Avalon would also build and pay for the 300-room hotel (which is promised to be upscale and full-service).
Ownership of the convention center and hotel would be set up as a condominium with the parking deck and lot being common area supported by both parties. Expenses here would be shared.
The city would own the convention center but grant Avalon a long-term lease for operation of the facility.
Again, these terms are non-binding but it appears that the conversation has trended this direction. The only thing binding in the memo would be $60,000 in pre-development funding the city and its Convention and Visitors Bureau would pony up to Avalon. This would help pay for preliminary items like cost studies and site plans.
It does seem odd for the city to increase taxes and borrow money to pay for something to be built on someone else’s land, only to lease it back to them. It begs the question – why doesn’t Avalon just build this themselves? If there is truly demand for a convention center like this, certainly private enterprise would consider making it happen.
Or perhaps it might be appropriate for larger groups to help in the heavy lifting. Fulton County chipped in money to build the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Encore Park. Yet we see no signs of their involvement in this convention center, something that certainly would be billed as a regional attraction.
Is there political will to make a plan like this happen? The fact that these non-binding terms have come out of executive session might suggest some support among council. But there are still a lot of details yet to be revealed. Alpharetta’s Council was unanimous in their initial support of Avalon but division is likely to occur on this matter. That’s this writer’s prediction.
Do you support a convention center at Avalon? Should tax dollars be part of the equation? Let me know in the comments!