MASON CITY | Mason City Council members on Tuesday unanimously passed two key changes to the River City Renaissance Project.
Those changes are a second amendment to the Purchase, Sale and Development Agreement between hotel developer G8 Development and Mason City, and an Amended and Restated Development Agreement between the Mason City Foundation and Mason City.
Within the last week, several aspects of the project have changed: the hotel has moved to the north in the Southbridge Mall parking lot, which City Engineer Mark Rahm said would save the city considerable money because of less storm sewer work underground.
No museum would be built under the current plan. Instead, the current Meredith Willson Museum would be renovated, and a convention center/ballroom space would be built and connected to the south of The Music Man Square.
Elizabeth Allison, executive director of The Music Man Square, told council members Tuesday a firm has been selected to help design their portion of the project. Pending approval of G8's financing, the project would be put through a bidding process, she added.
Before council members approved the amended agreement between Mason City and the Mason City Foundation, former councilman Max Weaver spent around five minutes criticizing city officials for their "lack of transparency" that has occurred over the last week.
"We were promised 44 weekends that we would have conferences," Weaver said about the proposed new convention space. "Well, I'm gonna be counting. Six hundred people in Mason City 44 times a year? It ain't gonna happen."
Some community members have also questioned whether the new changes should create a new bid-off process for the hotel development, similar to what happened last fall between G8 Development and Gatehouse Capital.
Director of Development Services Steven Van Steenhuyse said earlier this week no bid-off is required.
"Back in November, we were required to re-open the bidding process because the developer at that time, Gatehouse Mason City, LLC, requested concessions that provided additional benefits to the developer that were not part of the original bid notice," Van Steenhuyse wrote in an email to the Globe Gazette. "The new bid notice and the required 30-day bidding period opened the door for G8 Development to submit a more favorable bid.
"According to our attorney, the recent changes that have occurred are merely locational and do not confer advantages to the developer that were not part of the last bid notice," he added. "Thus, no new bid notice is required."
Interim City Administrator Kevin Jacobson added he wasn't concerned about the changes.
"There's a process that you go through with the development, and the very beginning part of the process may look somewhat different than the end product," he said after Tuesday's meeting. "I don't think there's a big issue with the changes."
Other city officials were positive following Tuesday's meeting. They were specifically confident that Byline Bank would finish underwriting for G8's $10 million hotel loan. The IEDA has agreed to delay that contingency until next month, even though proof of documentation of financing was originally due by May 18.
"Based on documentation supplied this week, the City of Mason City has not met the award contingency, which requires acceptable financing be secured for the Downtown Hotel by May 18, 2018," IEDA spokeswoman Jacque Matsen wrote in an email to the Globe Gazette Wednesday morning. "The IEDA Board and staff will reassess the status of financing in June. IEDA staff will continue to work with the City to find a path forward. When appropriate action can be taken, it will go back to the IEDA Board for formal consideration."
While Mason City officials originally anticipated meeting with the Iowa Economic Development Authority's board Friday, the River City Renaissance project is not listed on the agenda.
Mayor Bill Schickel said after Tuesday's council meeting a lot of progress has been made in the past couple of weeks.
He noted that financing for the Historic Park Inn restoration took five years to complete.
"They had trouble getting financing, there were multiple partners, there were a lot of ups and downs," Schickel said. "And that gave me additional confidence that it's not unusual to have these kinds of ups and downs and we just have to address them one step at a time."
Councilman Paul Adams said after Tuesday's meeting he didn't have concerns about G8 Development switching banks. Early last year, Chodur had been working with Live Oak Bank from North Carolina for financing. Now, he's working with Byline Bank, headquartered in Chicago with a branch in Indianapolis, which G8 is using.
"We just want a financial partner, we don't care where it comes from," Adams said, later adding Byline Bank seemed to be committed to the project due to the site visit and beginning the underwriting process.