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Casper Ends Agreement With Parkway Plaza For Convention Center

Tom Morton, Townsquare Media
Tom Morton, Townsquare Media

The City of Casper late last week ended its agreement — a memorandum of understanding for a public-private partnership — with the Parkway Plaza to build a convention center, Mayor Kenyne Humphrey said.

“We are no longer looking forward with any part of the MOU,” Humphrey said Monday.

The MOU signed in August was a three-phase process starting with initial plans and cost estimates as the Parkway eyed building a 40,000-square-foot convention center and the city committing about $5 million to improve infrastructure in the area of the hotel on East E Street.

The first phased ended Dec. 20, which is when the Parkway’s owner, CRU Casper LLC — a subsidiary of the Costa Mesa, Calif.-based CRU Real Estate Group — was to have provided conceptual drawings for the building and parking; a rough cost estimate; and financial documents.

Meanwhile, the city was to have crafted a plan for infrastructure improvement and cleaning the nearby area of the North Platte River.

If all went well, the city and CRU Casper would have embarked on the second phase beginning Dec. 20, eventually leading to construction of a convention center to open next year.

If CRU or the city didn’t like the progress at any time, the MOU would end.

It ended.

The city didn’t hear much after Dec. 20, Humphrey said. So she and Vice Mayor Ray Pacheco set up a meeting on Friday, Jan. 20, with company officials to talk about the MOU and what CRU Casper had not done, she said.

“At that point in time, after reviewing everything, we realized that the MOU is no longer valid as the criteria had not been met,” Humphrey said.

The Parkway had great intentions, but that wasn’t enough, she said.

The city knew the MOU was over, Humphrey said. “However, the developer side, the Parkway Plaza wasn’t quite ready to acknowledge that it was done, so this meeting served as more of a ‘let them know that the city is done.'”

Despite the breakup, Humphrey said the Parkway intends to pursue building a convention center on its own. Steve Senft, the principal partner in the CRU Real Estate Group, did not return calls seeking comment.

The hotel’s financial problems over the past year did not factor into the decision to abandon the agreement, Humphrey said.

Those problems included bounced payroll checks, notices of failure to pay unemployment tax, and three notices from the Wyoming Department of Revenue that it had not paid its sales taxes.

The latter triggered three suspensions of their liquor licenses during which hotel management illegally ordered employees to use company credit cards to go to local liquor stores to buy alcoholic beverages.

On Nov. 18, CRU Casper increased its mortgage with GreenLake Real Estate Fund LLC by about $2 million to $9.6 million, according to records in the Natrona County Clerk’s Office. The outstanding tax liens were paid after that, according to county clerk records.

What happens, if anything, the city does with the $5 million pledged for infrastructure remains to been seen, Humphrey said. “I know the consensus on council is that times are tight, and we need to save every penny we can.”


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