I'm writing you with excellent news for LancasterCounty and for the downtown hotel and convention center project. I'm also asking you to attend a critical meeting on the history of the project, the Monday, August 14 meeting of the LancasterCountyConvention Center Authority at in the Southern MarketCenter, 100 South Queen Street in Lancaster.
Seven years ago our government officials asked us to get into the convention center game. Sixteen days ago, they asked us to stay in the game when our second round of constructions bids still showed a nearly $20 million budget gap. I told you then "it is unlikely that we can organize any combination of resources and strategies that will allow us to move forward with the project as currently designed." That was an accurate statement: Penn Square Partners was not able to fill this gap alone.
Since we made that statement, Mayor Gray, Representative Sturla, Senator Armstrong, City Council president, Julianne Dixon, Charles Simms, chairman of the Redevelopment Authority, and Parking Authority chairman, Mark Vergenes spearheaded a full-court press effort to fill the funding gap. And they have done so, with no increased public debt-service and no increased public risk. In fact Penn Square Partners and Lancaster Newspapers, Inc. will fill 40% of the funding gap. This includes $1 million in new equity contributions by Penn Square Partners, bringing our equity total to $11 million and further lowering the already below-market rate of return that we can expect from our investment. This is nearly double the $6 million equity we pledged at the beginning of this project. Lancaster Newspapers, Inc. has pledged to build a new parking garage next to their existing parking garage and loan additional funds at no interest to the Lancaster Parking Authority so that the Convention Center Authority can use its $7 million parking-garage budget to fund construction of the Center. (The details are contained in the Mayor's comments, which are available atwww.PennSquarePartners.com )
Here's why the August 14 meeting is so crucial: it occurs only one day before the majority of the construction bids for this project expire. We must obtain approval from the Lancaster County Convention Center Authority board members to authorize awarding these construction contracts. If the bids are allowed to expire, we will be forced to re-bid all of them. Thanks to the many delays caused by project opponents - who have as of last week now have failed eight legal challenges - we believe that this inevitably will result in even higher, inflation-fueled costs.
Let me be very clear about the importance of the meeting. Many project opponents are increasingly irrational, strident, entrenched in their positions and resorting to nothing short of using deliberately misleading information, seeding false rumors and fanning wild conspiracy theories. They will attend this meeting in force. We need your calm, considered and vocal support to demonstrate to the Convention Center Board members that this project still enjoys wide support.
Please mark your calendar for Monday, August 14 at and take your turn at the microphone to let the Authority Board know that you support this project. Thank you for your continued support.
Nevin D. Cooley President Penn Square General Corporation