An architectural rendering of Gatehouse Capital's proposed
Hyatt Place hotel and new Meredith Willson Museum, which would
connect to The Music Man Square via skywalk.
DES MOINES | Give us a development agreement, and we’ll tentatively approve financial assistance for your project.
That was the message the state’s economic development board gave to Mason City leaders Friday during discussion of upwards of $10 million in state tax breaks for the city’s proposed $38 million River City Renaissance project.
Board members told Mason City leaders once the city has a development agreement with Gatehouse Mason City LLC on a new downtown hotel and conference center, the board will give contingent approval for the tax breaks at its October meeting.
That tentative approval would come just before Mason City is scheduled to host a public hearing on the development agreement and a referendum on the overall project, which includes the hotel, an ice arena and multipurpose center, a skywalk, a performing arts pavilion, and a new Music Man museum.
City administrator Brent Trout said the city is working on the final details of the development agreement with Gatehouse.
“I think we are close,” Trout told board members Friday.
David Rachie, with Gatehouse, said progress on the development agreement has been made “in leaps and bounds.”
Trout and Rachie said the final point of negotiations is the city’s schedule for making payments on a $4.2 million loan with Gatehouse. Both said they expect to reach a final agreement ahead of the economic development board’s next meeting.
The board has given preliminary approval for $7.1 million in tax breaks for the project; it could increase that figure up to $10 million.
If the board gives contingent approval for the tax breaks, it would be contingent on passage of Mason City’s Nov. 7 referendum. Voters will be asked to approve the city’s plan for up to $14 million in loans for the project.
“The hope is that there’s no uncertainty between the developer and the city by the time you guys come back to us, because otherwise it’s going to be hard to give you guys contingent approval,” board member David Bernstein, of Sioux City, told Mason City officials. “Because we just have October to act on this before your referendum.”
Board member Chris Murray, of Ankeny, added for emphasis, “Having that development agreement is a critical point. You guys know it, and we don’t need to repeat it. You’ve got to get that development agreement.”
During the Mason City group’s update to the board, Trout said a “well-organized” campaign will help gain the necessary 60 percent approval from voters in the Nov. 7 referendum. He pointed to a recent city council special election as cause for optimism.
Candidate Joshua Masson, who supports the project, handily defeated candidate Max Weaver, who opposes the project, 72 percent to 27 percent.
“It’s encouraging, what we’re seeing within the community,” Trout said.
The project referendum will be joined on the Nov. 7 ballot in Mason City by the mayor’s office and three city council seats.
Weaver, after losing Tuesday's special election, filed Thursday to run for the at-large seat. Other project skeptics or opponents are among the candidates running to represent the Second and Fourth wards.