Casper Wants Its $5 Million Back; City Leased Former Refinery Land For Conference Center
The Casper City Council on Tuesday informally approved a proposal to ask for the $5 million it ponied up for infrastructure for a conference center that never happened on the former Amoco refinery site.
But the money ultimately could go back to the site, now known as the Platte River Commons, for the same reason, but without as messy a lease as the September 2014 arrangement with the Amoco Reuse Agreement Joint Powers Board.
Council members gave the thumbs up to the idea at a work session that would end the city's lease with the Joint Powers Board for 18 acres, and get the city's money back.
The city leased the property for $5,096,520 until 2099 for the development of a conference center and hotel complex, according to a memo from City Manager V.H. McDonald and City Attorney Bill Luben.
The city, ideally, then would sublease the property to a private developer of a conference center and hotel complex, and possibly a performing arts center. The city would provide the infrastructure.
It didn't work out.
"After diligent effort, the City and the ARAJPB were not able to secure the development of this Project, and Council needs to consider whether it desires to terminate the lease and obtain the refund of the rent previously paid to hold the lease on this property," McDonald wrote.
The city and the ARAJPB agreed the city could end the lease at its sole discretion. McDonald and Luben wrote the city council would need to pass a resolution directing the mayor to notify the ARAJPB the agreement was over and ask it for a refund.
After the informal thumbs up, city council formally will vote on the proposal probably within the next month.
McDonald and Luben recommended the refunded money be put in a fund for infrastructure improvements along North Center and East E Streets if the Parkway Plaza is successful in developing its own conference center.
And if that doesn't work out, the money could go full circle because the ARAJPB has indicated it would issue a request for proposals for the development of a conference center on the Platte River Commons.
The terminated lease marked the latest in the half-decade saga of city government's goal, largely driven by former City Manager John Patterson, for a conference center and hotel complex somewhere near downtown.
Consultants were hired. Plans were proposed. Plans were on and off. And on and off.
The city council formally adopted the proposal for the lease of Platte River Commons property in June 2014, and the lease was signed three months later.
The hype and broken promises followed hot and heavy after that, with comments from Patterson and others that an agreement with a hotelier was just weeks away.
The proposal probably died in the summer of 2015, with the possibility that the new owners of the Parkway Plaza may develop their own conference center.