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Cumberland Center back on city agenda
Feb 02, 2013 4:00 pm
Lebanon Mayor Philip Craighead, a former real estate developer, doesn’t know the meaning of defeat when it comes to a plan he says will create a significant boost to attracting business, jobs and entertainment to the city.
Armed with a slightly revised plan and increased interest in city development for this second go-around, Craighead said he will present a resolution to the Lebanon City Council on Monday that would ask the state legislature to change laws to allow the Cumberland Center arena to be built.
“This is just a vision I’m putting out there,” Craighead said. “With more facts, it’s available to change. We haven’t had this look before because it’s gone to Providence [in Mt. Juliet] and other areas. The difference is its location, location, location.”
If approved by at least two-thirds of the council and Wilson County Commission and ultimately the legislature, Craighead wants to rope off about 376 acres on the east side of Lebanon adjacent to Interstate-40 at exit 238 for 1 million square feet of retail space, 500 square feet of office space and out parcels for hotels, offices, banks, restaurants and freestanding businesses. Craighead said if all the projections come to fruition, the Cumberland Center could generate 3,200 new jobs.
“What I’ve worked is totally in favor of the citizens,” Craighead said. “This is a way to create jobs. That is the biggest thing.”
Property and sales taxes generated from current and future business and office development within the area would be placed in a savings account with oversight coming from an as-yet-to-be-created Entertainment District Authority.
Craighead said this authority would be a nine-member board made up of the Lebanon and Wilson County mayors, two members each from the Lebanon City Council and Wilson County Commission, a city resident, a county resident and an at-large member selected by the board who would also serve as its chairperson.
According to Craighead, the board would work to recruit businesses and collect revenues current businesses until there’s enough money to start work on the Cumberland Center arena.
He said as the Cumberland Center grows once the arena is built, the $1 million in anticipated annual sales taxes and $1.5 million in anticipated annual property taxes would cap at $15 million on hand for reserve for the arena. The city and county would split any money generated within the Cumberland Center beyond that amount. A bond used to build the arena is anticipated to be paid off in 2038 if plans start according to Craighead’s timeline.
Craighead said the arena is based on a similar plan launched in the 1990s in Dodge City, Kansas, among others, that would create a 150,000-square-feet arena at the center of the Cumberland Center. The center would include an ice-skating rink with 4,500-6,200-capacity seating. He said the Central Hockey League has expressed interest in bringing a minor league affiliate to the Nashville Predators to Lebanon.
Also included would be 12,000-15,000 square feet of meeting halls and the potential for a hotel to be connected to the center.
“There are a lot of hotels that would love to be around a civic center like this,” Craighead said. “
Craighead she he’s got a gentleman’s agreement with developer J.D. Eatherly for Eatherly to donate 20-23 acres upon which the arena and possible hotel would be built. The estimated value of the donated land is about $6 million, and Craighead said he’s now seeking a memorandum of understanding to be signed by Eatherly regarding the land donation.
Craighead said there are 85 parcels of land located in the Cumberland Center with one development completed and another near completion.
Logan’s Roadhouse opened there in December, and Craighead said the restaurant employs about 130 full- or part-time workers. He said the 1.5 acres where Logan’s sits sold for about $800,000.
RCC Western Wear, which will be 16,000 square feet of boots, Wranglers, hats and more retail sales, is expected to open in March and will employ between 25-30 full-time workers.
According to Craighead, if the arena plans ultimately pass the council, commission and legislature, it would not be started until 400,000 square feet of tenant space is reached within the Cumberland Center, along with the supporting revenue. Once that happens, he said an architect and contractor would be selected. But Craighead is optimistic engineering and design could start as early as 2015 with construction to start in 2017.
“We are going to help drive business to the east side of town where other areas will fill in,” Craighead said. “It also creates jobs for people within walking distance.”
In addition, Craighead said he’s also talking to Regional Transit Authority officials and other state transportation leaders to build a rail spur into the Cumberland Center to create an additional stop in Lebanon for the Music City Star. He said it’s his vision people would park there, do some shopping, take the train to Nashville for entertainment or additional shopping and return for more shopping before going home.
The “other” arena
Craighead said plans currently under consideration by the Wilson County Commission to build an arena adjacent to the Ag Center at the Wilson County Fairgrounds would not compete with the Cumberland Center arena. The county’s proposed Expo Center would also require approval by the state legislature.
“What’s wrong with having two major developments in a city at one time?” Craighead said. “Mine has a commitment to save.”
Under consideration by the council Monday night will be a resolution to send a bill to the state legislature asking for changes to seven state laws. Craighead said state Sen. Mae Beavers and Reps. Mark Pody and Susan Lynn support the plan and are expected to sponsor the bill.
He said a change to this plan as opposed to one in 2011 takes an amendment that would allow the capture of the state share of sales tax generated within the arena off the table.
“We’re just going for local share,” Craighead said.
The first law change would allow the arena to be financed by sales taxes generated within the Cumberland Center. The second law change would allow the Convention Center and Tourism Development Financing Act to apply to the Cumberland Center project.
The third law change deals with definitions within the Industrial Development Corporations law to include the Cumberland Center project. It would further allow for property taxes within the Cumberland Center to be used to fund the arena.
The fourth law change would allow an economic impact area under the Industrial Development Corp. to coincide with a tourism development zone.
The fifth law change would limit the revenues used to finance the arena to increases in the local sales and use tax revenues. Increases in state sales and use tax revenues would not be used.
The sixth law change would allow for the creation of the Entertainment District Authority board and allow it to build and operate a qualified public-use facility.
The seventh law change deals with special allocation of state sales tax revenue for a facility where a sports authority has acquired a minor league professional hockey team. The allocation is the amount of state sales tax revenue derived from sales at the arena for tickets, food, drinks, parking, franchise goods and related services. The proposed change would allow the allocation of only local sales tax revenues derived at the arena when the arena meets the definition of a “qualified public-use facility.”
Cumberland Center plans first emerged in the public eye in 2011 when Craighead first attempted to garner community support.
Craighead said he met with 150 local community leaders one on one to garner input before moving forward with the plans.
A resolution similar to the one Craighead plans to bring before the council Monday was first considered in December 2011, but it failed to move any further.
At that time, the council voted 3-3 to allow the resolution to go to the state level. And even though Craighead broke the tie with his own vote in support of the plan, it failed to garner the two-thirds majority approval from the council needed to move forward.
The council meets Tuesday at 6 p.m. at City Hall on Castle Heights Avenue.