MASON CITY | At his state of the city address on Wednesday, Jan. 2, Mayor Bill Schickel made it known that a major goal for 2019 was to finally build the long-promised multipurpose arena as part of the River City Renaissance Project.
Thursday afternoon that plan moved incrementally forward with the announcement of five contractor bids for demolition and excavation to ICON Architectural Group who is designing and coordinating the building of the arena.
On the low-end was Charlson Excavating Co. Inc, which bid $291,500, while Larry Elwood was on the high side and came in at $849,662.
That bid table was provided by City Administrator Aaron Burnett whose target approval for the bids is within a week. "We intend on taking action at the council meeting next Tuesday," Burnett said.
Multipurpose arena bids
For demolition and excavation
Carl A. Nelson & Co.
Charlson Excavating Co. Inc.
Dean Snyder Construction
Larry Elwood Construction
The next "bid package," which focuses on "structural steel, concrete foundation and ice plant," is slated for a 14-day bid window and a request for city council approval on Jan. 29.
"Bid Package 3" will follow in March and deal with mechanical, electrical and interior "fit-up." It's scheduled for a two-week bidding period and then a request for city council approval on April 2.
Perhaps the most complex funding structure goes toward the ice arena, estimated to cost about $12.55 million. This would be paid through private grants, TIF money, Iowa Reinvestment Act funds, a local option sales tax and a $500,000 pledge from Cerro Gordo County.
All of these estimates are “not-to-exceed” figures, and could change based on how much the Iowa Economic Development Authority awards the city. The money is only allocated if the two ballot items pass with at least a 60 percent approval (or “yes” votes).
The city has spent $150,000 on a predevelopment agreement with Gatehouse, the developer of the proposed hotel. That amount will be returned to the city once the project begins. Another $750,000 could be spent on preconstruction funding, and the maximum amount of the loan the city is giving Gatehouse for the hotel at $4.2 million. The Mason City Chamber of Commerce Foundation is guarantor of all city expenses.
The Iowa Economic Development Authority seems poised to award anywhere between $7.1 million to $10 million in tax breaks for the project. That money would be given to the city on an incremental basis – rather than a lump sum, upfront payment – as long as the two ballot items are approved.
The current development agreement requires Gatehouse to invest 10 percent of the hotel cost. About 26 percent comes from the Gatehouse and its investors, 50 percent from the senior bank loan, and the rest from the city’s $4.2 million loan. Eventually, Gatehouse and its investors will pay $13.37 million of the cost of the hotel. It has to re-pay the $4.2 million loan to the city over a 20-year period.
The hotel, which will probably be developed by Gatehouse pending project approval, would be in the southeastern part of the Southbridge Mall parking lot. It would be 106 rooms, and renderings show it would be a Hyatt Place model, although that has not been confirmed by Gatehouse. There have been concerns about how the hotel would impact parking in the area, but city officials claim there is enough throughout Mason City to handle the load.
The current Music Man Square Museum space would be converted into a conference center with a banquet space that would hold 600 people. The streetscape space would be improved, but remain in place. Along with renovation costs, the $3 million projection includes the resources needed to package and move artifacts to the new Meredith Willson Museum.
A new museum would be built to the east of the hotel, and serve as the home to history considering Meredith Willson, along with housing all related artifacts. It would be connected to the new hotel and the skywalk over South Delaware Avenue, linking it to the new conference center. The museum currently inside The Music Man Square will be moved to a separate, adjacent building. The Music Man Square building will remain intact, as the conference center.
This would connect the museum to the conference center. Newly elected city council member Joshua Masson said at a recent council meeting that the skywalk would be an important factor in attracting possible conferences, adding Mason City has been passed over in the past because it doesn’t have one.
The pavilion would primarily serve as a location for the municipal band to perform. It would be located at the north façade of Southbridge and corresponding plaza, and create new entrances for the mall itself. It would improve acoustics and provide more opportunities for free outdoor entertainment in the plaza.
Perhaps the most complex part of the project, the ice arena and multipurpose center would hold up to 4,400 for concerts and similar events. The Mason City Youth Hockey Club has committed $2 million to this part of the project, and would operate the ice rink for six months out of the year. Because of a memorandum of understanding between the city and club, the arena could only be used for multipurpose events for the other six months. That could change, however, according to city officials.
Goes by Mike Kohan and is president of Kohan Investment Group of Great Neck, New York. KIG purchased Southbridge Mall for $1.5 million in September 2016 and is doing business as Southbridge Mall Realty Holding LLC. As of Nov. 1, Kohan owes $210,854 in property taxes, after paying $28,190 in two tax sale properties (the mall sits on four parcels). If the mall is sold, all commitments related to the project will be the responsibility of the new owners.
A representative of Gatehouse Capital, whose company submitted a proposal when the city put out a request for proposals after Chodur defaulted. Gatehouse wants to build a 106-room Hyatt Hotel in the south parking lot of Southbridge Mall, connect it to The Music Man Square via a skywalk, build a conference center/ballroom in The Music Man Square and move the museum to an adjacent building. The city also received a proposal from Chodur but chose the Gatehouse plan.
The interim city administrator who replaced Brent Trout. He now handles many of the responsibilities of the project. As the city’s finance director, he understands much of the funding structures corresponding to each part of the project. But it is unclear when a permanent replacement will start, who will have many responsibilities in executing the project if the ballot items pass.
Mason City resident is one of the organizers of the "Mason City Says Yes" campaign, made up of residents who support the two public issues on the Nov. 7 ballot. The group submitted petitions with enough signatures to require the public vote.
The president of San Diego-based G8 Development first proposed to build a Hilton hotel in the parking lot west of City Hall but could not get Hilton approval. He then proposed to build a Marriott hotel in the same spot but failed to meet city deadlines to start construction and therefore defaulted on the development agreement. Chodur is now suing the city for breach of contract with a trial date set for November 2018.
1) The project has been in the works for several years now, and some citizens have doubts about the funding and execution of it. Initially, a parking ramp was proposed, costing the city hundreds of thousands of dollars. Now, that has been scrapped.