Nugget Project: Who owns the land, revisited
Submitted by Kirk Caraway on Wed, 01/19/2011 - 10:49am
Carson City Manager Larry Werner sat down for an interview on OurTown yesterday, and we hope to have that video up soon. But in the meantime, I do want to share a couple of newsworthy items from that interview.
The biggest item was that Werner said there has been a change — or at least a clarification — in the question of who would own the land under the public portion of the Carson City Center/Nugget Project.
It seems that the land under the proposed library would be deeded over to the city at the end of the lease-purchase agreement with the developer. But (and this is a pretty big "but") the land under the public plaza, parking garage and transit center would remain under the ownership of the Hop & Mae Adams Foundation.
The ownership of the land — and the prospect of the city being saddled with never-ending lease payments — has been a major bone of contention for critics of the project.
As late as Sept. 15 of last year, Neighbors was sticking to the position that the land would not be sold or transferred to the city. It was his contention that the foundation needed to retain ownership of the assets, even though the lease payments would be given back to the city to be used for specific purposes, such as enhancing library services.
But on Sept. 27, Neighbors reversed course and told the Nugget Project Advisory Committee that that the land would be deeded over at the end of the lease/purchase agreement with P3 Development. That move seemed to satisfy some of the critics, and since then the project has gained momentum.
So now we will see if this new position on the land ownership has any affect.
This is one of these "the devil is in the details" things that has frustrated both supporters and opponents of this project. There are a lot of moving pieces involved here, along with suspicions about Neighbors' motives. This change in the land ownership detail just adds to those suspicions.
The legal review of this project is going to have to be pretty extensive to make sure there are no loopholes that can come back and bite the city. For instance, would be there anything keeping the foundation from selling the land to another party? Or, would there be some kind of assurances that the foundation can't change where these lease payments go? Or, how much of these payments will be sucked up in administrative and other costs before returning to the city?
The second big news item from the Werner interview yesterday was that the developers have settled on moving the placement of the hotel to the Arlington Square lot, across Carson Street from the Nugget, and the current home of the city's downtown ice rink. Werner also said that the parking garage would then be moved nearer to the library, thus making it easier for patrons to use it.
The former placement of the parking garage — adjacent to the back door of the Nugget casino and surrounded by the proposed hotel — caused some consternation with even strong supporters of the project. In that configuration, the $5.7 million parking structure would be almost exclusively used by the Nugget and the hotel, while the library and plaza users would be relegated to street parking.
Moving the parking garage closer to the library will help placate those concerns, but that's not the end of the parking questions. The Arlington Square site for the hotel was chosen because it's on Carson Street, but there's no room for parking in that space. Even if the hotel has one level of underground parking, a majority of the parking would be more than a block away, behind the Nugget.
There's a lot of unanswered questions about this project, but one thing I think you can bet on is there will be new jobs created for valet parking attendants if this hotel is built on that site. Applicants better be in good physical shape, because I predict they will be doing a lot of running.
While there are plenty of hotels in big cities like San Francisco where this kind of hotel parking setup is common, would this work in Carson City?
Perhaps all this talk about building a new hotel and events center in downtown Carson City might finally light a fire under the owners of the Ormsby House to get to work finishing the long-overdue renovation of that property.