Thursday, August 25, 2016

Catalyst Project's consultants officially exit stage left

Davidson's Catalyst Project has been quite the show.

For two years Town Hall has spent untold hours working with the UNCSOG Development Finance Initiative consultants to spin a tale of how a Public Private Partnership could transform downtown by generating enough private sector investment to spin off extra capacity for the public sector.

The only problem?  Few in town liked that storyline.  It was too big, too gaudy, and just too much for most to stomach.

So, quietly late on Thursday afternoon that story exited stage left.  Economic Development Manager, Kim Flemming sent out this notice:
Many of you have been involved in the process of studying the four acres of town-owned land in downtown Davidson, the Downtown Feasibility Study, over the past two years. During this process, the Davidson Board of Commissioners recognized a need to transition the focus to improving public facilities to position us to effectively serve our citizens as our community grows. They have provided direction to town staff to evaluate town facility space needs, as well as a public parking solution and public space improvements. At this time, they no longer wish to pursue opportunities for private investment on town-owned land. The UNC School of Government’s Development Finance Initiative will not be involved in the process moving forward since there is no private investment.

Staff will now begin developing plans for public facility needs to ensure we are able to serve our citizens as our population grows. A new process and timeline are being established as we close out the Downtown Feasibility Study and transition to a public facility assessment.

We appreciate the time and input you gave throughout this process. There will be opportunities for public input as we move forward with a public facilities plan. We value your opinion and hope that you will stay engaged during this process."
A little known factoid originally exposed by aShortChronicle was that DFI was being paid on commission based on how much private sector development ultimately was included in the project.  The town had always played up how inexpensive DFI was directly to the town. The town only paid about $50,000 for their services. However, DFI's real payday was going to be on the commercial development. That clearly was a motivation to increase and prioritize that as much as possible. Now that the possibility of that has gone away, so does DFI.

With the consultants out of the way, efforts can now get back to this being a local project, driven by local priorities - as it always should have been.

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