By ELLY GRIMM
• Leader & Times
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part two of the story recapping the most recent meeting of the Liberal City Commission Tuesday evening, and this part will cover the conversation that took place regarding future development in North Liberal.
Development was also on the minds of the commissioners Tuesday evening as the commission heard a presentation from the Pinnacle Group regarding future projects. While the discussion Tuesday evening mostly focused on scheduling public hearings, potential future development in certain areas was also a highlight, with Pinnacle Group attorney Evan Fitz talking about the work.
“The purpose of my presentation tonight is to provide some background and information on what we’re doing, and like Jeff [Parsons] just said, tonight is not the public hearing itself, we’re calling for a public hearing for about a month from now,” Fitz said. “Because of that, I would like to tell you what’s going on and open all that up. We want you to be satisfied what we’re proposing that you want to have. We want it to be something you’re proud of having in the city.”
The pieces of this property discussed were the Triangle Parcel and the Bartel Parcel, both of which are located north of Liberal.
“The Triangle Parcel comprises the first phase of development we’re proposing here, which is currently an 82-room Comfort Suites, as well as a 5500 square foot Old Chicago restaurant, and some additional space for other users,” Fitz said. “We had one identified, and fortunately for the city, but not so fortunately for us, they decided to locate to another place within the city to pursue a comparable type of venue there for a national-level probable restaurant chain or coffee shop. As you wrap over to the Bartel Parcel, we’ve not identified users for this site yet, but the goal of what we’re trying to do with all these approvals we’re asking you to participate in, is set up an environment where it’s going to capitalize on all the activity going on that side of the city. It’s adjacent to the Walmart there, there’s the Applebee’s there, that IHOP’s going in, so by the time we get another hotel and another restaurant, there’s a lot of things going on there. We hope to be able to attract, given the great location and accessibility to the highway there, to be able to attract more national-level tenants, the type of people who are new to the city and the area and into the city.”
Fitz added the Pinnacle Group is very excited about the project, and said part of the goal is to set up an economic environment to make improvements to North Liberal possible, saying a similar model had been used with other projects successfully in Garden City and other cities.
“We saw this work at a time when the national economy was really down,” Fitz said. “There’s such a strong retail pull in this area. A lot of people are willing to drive and come to places they don’t get to see every day, so if you set things up appropriately, it’s a great place for people to come in and do business and be successful at it. The purpose of what we’re doing here tonight specifically, and over the next several meetings when we’ll bring several items before you, is a public-private partnership, through which we’re requesting the city provide incentive support as you’re allowed to do under certain regulations in support of this project. This is something I know the city’s done recently with another hotel and conference center project, so this isn’t entirely dissimilar from what you’ve seen before there. We believe this achieves some public goals, which is the reason you would consider something like this. It fosters increased commerce and development in that critical part of the city, it attracts other businesses and projects that may not normally come. It also creates a long-term asset that will generate more tax revenues. Then, of course, we can all agree there are other spin-off economic benefits to all this.”
There are also several economic development tools that could be used to facilitate this work, Fitz said, including Tax Increment Financing (TIF), Community Improvement Districts (CID), rebate of transient guest taxes, and sales tax exemptions for the needed construction equipment. Fitz discussed all four of these before the commission, and said all four could potentially be used.
“All terms of these incentives will be set forth in the development agreement we’ll be negotiating with city management and legal counsel, and we’ll be presenting it to you next month,” Fitz said. “That will include such things, among anything else you want to ask for ... it will include a limit on the use of the transient guest tax for the conference center costs, as is identified with policy. It will also limit the amount of CID reimbursement as per your CID policy. It’ll also provide for payment of the city’s administrative costs so they’re not a huge burden while paying for it, and it will also make sure everything’s in full compliance with state law and other policies we need to abide by.”
Fitz also talked about the investment that will be needed for the upcoming development, and also praised the work of the development team that will be in charge.
“There’s a substantial capitol investment being proposed here, approximately $21 million for the first phase, and while we haven’t finalized the second phase with the planning and space layout we’ve done, that average cost might be around $48 million,” Fitz said. “Construction of the conference facility will be 180 seats, while your policy requires a 150-seat threshold. I know it’s important for the city to foster visitation and bring people in whenever possible, so we aim to support that. We want to create an environment where we can aggressively market to national-level retailers.”
Fitz concluded his presentation after some more information, and then members of the commission spoke up and expressed excitement about the development.
“I would just like to thank the investors, thank you for being here tonight, thank you for your vision of the big picture and seeing what Liberal can be,” Liberal Mayor Joe Denoyer said. “We’re investing in our community, and we’re partnering with local folks who have called Liberal home for a long time. You’ve seen the big picture, you have the vision.”
There were three resolutions total that were associated with this upcoming development – 2258, 2259, and 2260 – and all were unanimously approved. Resolution No. 2258 officially scheduled a public hearing for April 26 to advise on creating a redevelopment district in North Liberal, and Resolutions 2259 and 2260 scheduled public hearings for April 26 regarding creating Community Improvement Districts North Liberal One (the area known as the Triangle Parcel) and North Liberal Two (the area known as the Bartlel Parcel).