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Studies show Bremerton conference center is viable

It was like a pep rally.

Results came back Wednesday on the feasibility study of a planned hotel/conference center with parking complex on the waterfront near the Bremerton Transportation Center — and city leaders couldn’t be happier.

“This is a pretty good scenario for us,” Mayor Lynn Horton said.

“The validity of the project is in the feasibility study,” said Kathleen McCluskey, director of administrative services.

City officials made these comments during a Thursday, Dec. 13 press conference. They released the four-part, 101-page study conducted by consultants Real Estate Economics of Bothell, Berk & Associates Inc., Greg O’Kelley and Associates LLC of Edmonds, and Hattori & Associates LLC.

The PFD asked the city to have the study done to help the PFD decide how best to disburse a sales-tax rebate.

The rebate — $11.5 million in all — must be used for community enhancement in the greater Kitsap region.

A major area of doubt in the minds of PFD officials was whether Bremerton’s funding mechanism was feasible. The city planned to fund part of the project through tax-exempt bonds sold to investors. Funding part of the project will, city officials said, be an incentive for private investors to come in and build the rest.

“The consultants said that with a few changes, our plan will work,” McCluskey said.

The city wanted to put 75 condos above the 100-room hotel/conference center. The consultants said this wouldn’t work out for the bottom line. Consultants shrank the size of the proposed conference center — which would be on the lower floors of the building — from 25,000 square feet to 15,000 square feet. Consultants told city leaders to build with expansion in mind, though.

The four-story, 600-bay parking garage also is feasible, consultants said.

“They did a very detailed study of whether the proposed parking complex would pay for itself,” McCluskey said.

“They were very conservative on numbers — parking fees would be reasonable...,” City Treasurer Rich Hanna added, “It would play out. The capital would be forthcoming.”

Hattori & Associates LLC performed the financial analysis and came up with four scenarios.

Each scenario assumes $7.5 million will come from the PFD. City officials said they hope to persuade the PFD to award the Fairgrounds only $3.5 million, the scenarios calculate the remaining revenues would be from bond-supported funds from the city and cash from an as-yet-to-be found — or announced — private developer.

For example, in Scenario One, the $11.6 million parking garage and conference center would be paid entirely out of city bond sales. The $15.2 million hotel would be paid with about $6.7 million in bonds and $8.5 million in private money.

Other scenarios reduce private development costs to as little as $3.7 million, and increase not only cash from developers but involve them in selling bonds as well.

The mayor and other city officials feel confident they can find a private hotelier — such as the previously discussed Marriott hotel chain — willing to come on board at these prices.

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