CNL’s Ask for Free City Land for Parking Garage is “D.O.A.”

Commission: Who’s Doing Who a Favor Here?

Monday’s City Commission hearing did not go well for CNL. A fundamental disagreement between CNL and the City Commission was whether the City should expect some compensation in return for allowing CNL to build a large parking structure on the City’s Civic Center parking lot – a property valued at $1 to $2 million.The workshop started on a sour note – with CNL’s Paul Ellis standing firm on his position that CNL should pay nothing and that the City should be happy with the increased / accelerated tax and fee revenue it would receive when CNL develops the property.

CNL’s ask for City help – and the implication that prime 17-92 real estate might not otherwise attract significant developer investment – bore a striking similarity to claims made by Dan Bellows in his long campaign to share millions of dollars in City tax and fee revenues. The appearance of some strategic nexus between the two developers was further strengthened by the scheduling of “dueling workshops” held on the same afternoon on July 22.

In yesterday’s CNL workshop, Commissioner Cooper rubbed Paul Ellis the wrong way by referring to CNL’s controversial 2011 Progress Point land swap deal with the City.

Cooper complained about CNL’s current approach to the City, saying that ” . . .it is indefensible to me, to face other developers in this community and say to them ‘Yes, CNL is at the trough for a second time’ . . . My phone has been ringing off the hook . . . if we are going to give away City land to subsidize commercial development, it needs to be equitable and fair . . .” Click the video image below to view the workshop.

Commissioner Cooper was not the only Commissioner complaining to Ellis. At various points during the workshop, each Commissioner offered criticism of CNL’s offer. More about that later . . .

First, a bit of history on the project: In late July, as noted above, the usual end-of-month City Commission meeting was bookended by two separate workshops – held on behalf of CNL and Ravaudage developers – both of whom did their best to convince the City to hand over City treasure in return for enhanced development along the 17-92 corridor.

First up was Dan Bellows and Ravaudage CDD representatives, asking for City tax revenues and fee sharing to help build out $60 to 70 million in Ravaudage infrastructure – some of which would also serve areas beyond Ravaudage. As with past requests for taxpayer assistance, Mr. Bellows ran into skepticism on the Commission.

However, Mayor Bradley did indicate some interest in the proposal when he pointed out that some part of the millions required to create infrastructure in the area could conceivably be paid by the City anyway – if Ravaudage did not exist and that part of the city developed piecemeal over time. The Mayor offered his opinion that “…at some point, I think there is some responsibility for the City to do something.” Click the video image below to view the Ravaudage workshop.

Ravaudage CDD Attorney: City $$ Not Used Unless Builder Performs, But . . . Builder May Be Unable to Perform Without City $$ Guarantee.

After Commissioner Cooper pointed out that a key reason that CDDs are set up is to allow developers to raise their own infrastructure funding in the bond market, Dan Bellows and the Ravaudage CDD attorney, Jan Carpenter, countered that their funding request is “performance” based and that City dollars would only be spent as development of the land actually proceeds. Carpenter asserted that development of Ravaudage “won’t happen – or it won’t happen quickly” if the City does not agree to provide the millions of dollars in assistance being requested.

Commissioner Sprinkel: Giving Ravaudage City $$ “palatable to me because it’s all new money.”

Commissioner Sprinkel reiterated a point mentioned in past discussions that future City revenues shared with Ravaudage is “not money we would have had otherwise – so it’s new money that is coming to us to develop this area to make it better . . . it’s palatable to me because it’s all new money.”

Commissioner McMacken took a different tack – butting heads with Bellows, asking how the developer could come to the Commission asking for millions of dollars in assistance: “Dan, we’re working with your plan. This isn’t a City plan. This is a private developer that comes to the City and says, ‘In order to do this, I have a $63 million shortfall.’ McMacken confessed that he was “stumped” by Bellows request, considering the benefits and concessions Bellows and Ravaudage have already received, saying that “if CNL were here right now, they’d be salivating.”

Even though Mr. Bellows left the workshop less than satisfied with the Commission’s response, both he and Mr. McMacken were well aware that CNL was, in fact, waiting in the wings for their own shot at the City Commission that same afternoon. Mr. Bellows attended the CNL workshop, observing the proceedings from start to finish. Click the video image below to view the July CNL workshop.

Unlike Mr. Bellows, CNL’s Paul Ellis used his afternoon workshop time to ask for land – not money. Ellis’s bid follows on the heels of his successful pitch in 2011 that persuaded the Commission to swap a piece of CNL land on the Orange Avenue railroad tracks for the City-owned State Office Building at Morse and Denning.

CNL’s Paul Ellis: Our Parking Garage on City Property = More, Bigger, Better, Quicker Development + Extra Taxes and Fees for City.

This time around, CNL Commercial Real Estate has a contract to purchase the Mount Vernon Inn at Morse and Orlando Avenue and convert it into a mixed-use complex of multi-family apartments, restaurants and a 100+ room business hotel – if the City will allow CNL to build a large parking garage on the adjacent Civic Center parking lot. CNL is proposing a “Public-Private Partnership” to build the multi-story parking garage on the City-owned parking lot. Like Mr. Bellows, Mr. Ellis paints a picture showing the City largesse he requires being amply rewarded by bigger, better, denser and quicker development that will pour tax and fee revenue into City coffers – development he claims cannot proceed without City help.

The Mt. Vernon purchase contract is contingent on Ellis’s ability to win over the Commission one more time – and, according to Ellis, CNL needs an answer quickly. However, as confirmed by City minutes of the July workshop, “Mr. Ellis explained that at this time a final decision has not been made on the type of redevelopment that will take place on the Mt. Vernon site.“

CNL Wants Quick Answers. Promises $4.1 Million City Gain if Garage is Approved.

Mr. Ellis also was unable to answer questions concerning planned building density during the July workshop. CNL’s attorney, Becky Wilson, claimed that construction of the large garage could enable growth throughout the Morse Blvd./Orlando Avenue area and even potentially triple bookings at the Rachel Murrah Civic Center. As quoted by the City’s minutes of the workshop, Ms. Wilson laid out CNL’s proposed timing of the City approval process this way: “. . . CNL will have to submit a site plan and description by the middle/end of August to the Planning Department. The first week of September City wide notices will be sent out; the first week in October, CNL will present the project to the Planning & Zoning Board for approval; the fourth week in October, CNL will present to the Commission the request for a comprehensive plan amendment and rezoning (first reading) and conditional use; it will come to the Commission at the second week in November for second reading.”

CNL’s proposal, which was explored again at Monday’s 2:00pm workshop, is illustrated in a PowerPoint presentation that can be viewed by clicking the button below.

CNL PowerPoint Presentation

The City’s Agenda Package includes a financial analysis that projects a $4.1 million (NPV) gain for the City if it allows CNL to use City land to develop the garage and Mt. Vernon site as planned. Questions posed by Winter Parkers interviewed by the Voice, workshop participants and by the Agenda document itself are shown below.

What is the increased value of the Mt. Vernon property if the garage is approved?

Is the current 356,472 square ft. project, as contemplated, appropriate and desirable for 17-92?

Does the City see benefit in using City land, already designated for parking, to enhance desirable development along 17-92?

CNL says that its proposed garage will enable significant new development throughout the adjacent area. If CNL controls use of the garage, will it have the power to influence nearby development?

Will the garage and increased project density enhance or degrade use of MLK Park and the Civic Center? How will it affect pedestrian and automobile traffic?

Commissioners Unimpressed With CNL Offer. Sprinkel: “Highly Disappointed.” Leary: “Less Than a Non-Starter.” McMacken: “Deal-Breaker.”

An in-depth analysis of these issues was, to some extent, sidetracked by the Commission’s strongly-voiced objections to the deal as currently constituted. CNL and its proposal were characterized as “presumptuous” by Commissioner Sprinkel who stated she was “. . . highly disappointed in this.”

Commissioner Leary called parts of the proposal “Less than a non-starter.” Commissioner McMacken agreed, saying he considered CNL’s cash-free offer to be a “Deal-Breaker.”

On The Other Hand, Here Are Some Ideas We like . . .

CNL’s vision of a high-end business hotel near Morse and 17-92 – and the possibility of a deal that might fund the refurbishing the “very dated” Civic Center proved to be a tantalizing prospect for the Mayor and Commissioners. Comments by officials on the City side of the table painted a clear path to a successful negotiation – if CNL is willing to tread that path and bring with them a strong package of incentives to sweeten the deal.

However, at the close of the workshop, Paul Ellis and his attorney offered no additional incentives and, in the Commission meeting that followed the workshop, CNL’s proposal was dropped from the agenda by unanimous consent.

Winter Park Voice will update this story and provide continuing coverage of the city’s hearings, if any, on CNL’s proposal.

 

  • author's avatar

    By: Tom Childers

    Tom was the previous editor of the Winter Park Voice and a citizen of Winter Park. He was a tireless advocate for Winter Park.

  • author's avatar

Share This