The City of Columbia City Council met for a Work Session on Wednesday, February 2, 2005 in the City Hall Council Chambers at 1737 Main Street, Columbia, South Carolina. The Honorable Mayor Pro-Tempore Anne M. Sinclair called the meeting to order at 5:00 p.m. The following Council members were present: The Honorable E. W. Cromartie, II, The Honorable Hamilton Osborne, Jr., The Honorable Tameika Isaac Devine and The Honorable Daniel J. Rickenmann. Absent were The Honorable Mayor Robert D. Coble and The Honorable Sam Davis. Also present were Mr. Charles P. Austin, Sr., City Manager and Ms. Erika D. Moore, City Clerk.
CITY COUNCIL DISCUSSION / ACTION
A. Joint Proposal by the Workshop Theatre of South Carolina and the Renaissance Foundation – Ms. Nancy Brooks, Executive Director of the Workshop Theatre and Ms. Mary Skinner-Jones, Executive Director of The Renaissance Foundation
Mr. Matt Kennell, Executive Director of the City Center Partnership
thanked the members of Council for their past support of the Workshop Theatre
of SC, the Renaissance Foundation and many other organizations. He
stated that the City Center Partnership fully endorses the forthcoming
proposals and asked the members of Council to thoughtfully consider the
proposals that will be presented.
Ms. Nancy Brooks, Executive Director of the Workshop Theatre of South Carolina, requested Hospitality Tax Funding to purchase and renovate 1208 Washington Street (the Old Republican Bank Building) for the relocation of the Workshop Theatre. She stated that the cost to purchase and renovate the building is $4 million and that the Workshop Theatre Board of Trustees has voted to make a commitment to raise $1.5 million for the new building. They have already received $87,000.00 in cash and deposits and pledges for an additional $87,000.00. Ms. Brooks noted that both The Workshop Theatre and The Renaissance Foundation have received Hospitality Tax Funds from the City of Columbia over the last two (2) years. She requested a commitment from the City for Hospitality Tax Funds in an amount sufficient enough to repay a participatory loan to be arranged between the City of Columbia and a group of banks. She added that under this arrangement neither organization would request additional Hospitality Tax Funds for the duration of the loan. Ms. Brooks stated that The Workshop Theatre is a financially sound organization that gains income from earned sources such as ticket sales, season subscribers, class tuition, etc. She added that 9% of the budget comes from the Cultural Council of Richland/Lexington Counties and the South Carolina Arts Commission. She explained that the current plans are to institute a per ticket debt reduction charge next season that would produce an additional $23,000.00 to $40,000.00 per year in projected income. She stated that this additional income would be earmarked for the City of Columbia. Ms. Brooks stated that the economic impact of the Workshop Theatre on the local economy exceeds $1.37 million taking into account direct spending by the theatre; it’s patrons and volunteers. She stated that cultural spending should be viewed as an investment strategy and not a luxury.
Ms. Mary Skinner-Jones, Executive Director of the Renaissance Foundation, reported that 92.7% of tourists include cultural activities on their trips. She said that visitors spend $7.1 million in South Carolina. She stated that the African American Market is a new and emerging market. She said that their target market would be the entire Southeastern region and African American baby boomers. She said that they enjoy outdoor activities, visiting historical sites, arts, warm climate, expensive meals, museums and galleries. Ms. Jones added that the African American economic impact on the City of Columbia within the last six (6) months has been an estimated $5 million.
Councilwoman Tameika Isaac Devine requested a detailed explanation of what The Workshop Theatre was requesting from the City of Columbia and how they plan to structure the participatory loan?
Ms. Nancy Brooks, Executive Director of the Workshop Theatre of South Carolina, stated that Ms. Marilyn Drayton of Carolina First Bank and other banks would put together a participatory loan to the City of Columbia to be repaid with Hospitality Tax Funds. She requested $2.5 million for the Workshop Theatre and $3 million for the Renaissance Foundation.
Councilman Hamilton Osborne, Jr. asked if the $2.5 million would be used to purchase the building?
Ms. Nancy Brooks, Executive Director of the Workshop Theatre of South Carolina, replied that it’s a package deal and that it would cost $4million to purchase and renovate the building. She added that the cost to purchase the building alone is $1.5 million.
Councilman Hamilton Osborne, Jr. asked what would The Renaissance Foundation use its $3 million for?
Ms. Mary Skinner-Jones, Executive Director of the Renaissance Foundation, replied that the funds would cover all construction costs.
Councilman Hamilton Osborne, Jr., expressed concern for whether or not the City would be able to grant their requests without squeezing out many other organizations. He stated that in the past when the City of Columbia purchased buildings for non-profit organizations to operate in, the City owns the building. He said that it is conceivable that the city would purchase the bank building and own it, but he’s not sure if Bethel AME is prepared to deed over the church building to the city. He said that there are also financial impediments that would preclude others from getting Hospitality Tax Funding due to the anticipated term of the loan.
Ms. Nancy Brooks, Executive Director of the Workshop Theatre of South Carolina, stated that the loan could be structured in such a way that the payments would be comparable to what they have received in past years. She said that both organizations would contribute to the repayment of the loan.
Councilman E. W. Cromartie, II suggested that they get the numbers, the term of the participatory loan and the payment schedule and then determine the dedicated source of funding. He said that the amount has to be at a level that would allow the City to continue funding the other organizations. Mr. Cromartie said that the facilities would compliment the number of tourists that visit Columbia.
Mr. Don Alcorn, President of the Workshop Theatre of South Carolina Board of Trustees, addressed Mr. Osborne’s concerns by stating that they are looking at a 320-seat theatre that will impact nighttime traffic on Main Street and boost the activity and excitement to Main Street restaurants. He said that the restaurateurs are excited about this because they need the nighttime business.
Councilman Daniel Rickenmann asked if a pro-forma had been done yet?
Ms. Nancy Brooks, Executive Director of the Workshop Theatre of South Carolina, stated that she has a pro-forma for the operating expenses but not for the loan.
Councilman Daniel Rickenmann asked if the issues with the lease for the Bethel AME Church had been resolved?
Ms. Mary Skinner-Jones, Executive Director of the Renaissance Foundation, stated that the lease is being discussed and that they also met with the City Manger last week.
Councilman Hamilton Osborne, Jr., stated that there is no doubt that both organizations would be successful. He stated that the two (2) requests should be discussed separately because they are dramatically different organizations. He added that the Workshop Theatre is clearly a non-sectarian, non-profit organization that has been in existence for a long time and that there are no legal impediments to providing financial support to them. He further stated that the question is how much can the city afford. He reiterated the request for a feasibility analysis. Mr. Osborne stated that the Bethel AME Church needed to relinquish its control over the building if public money is going to be spent.
Councilwoman Anne M. Sinclair stated that the City of Columbia has shown its support for both projects, but she admitted to being jaunted when she reviewed the request for funding. She stated that she is unsure that the City of Columbia could meet the funding request, because it would create additional debt. Ms. Sinclair suggested that City Council consult with the city’s attorney
Ms. Nancy Brooks, Executive Director of the Workshop Theatre of South Carolina, said that the organization does not have a problem with the City of Columbia owning the property. She stated that without the city’s support they couldn’t proceed. She requested permission to work with city staff to complete the details of the request.
Mr. Tom Prioreschi stated that the organizations that are involved in this request are trying to create a critical mass of cultural activities in the very center of the city to compliment the entertainment district in the Vista and Five Points. He said that if we see that as the vision of what the City is trying to accomplish then the rising tide of Hospitality Tax money would produce more revenue. He said that we needed to put the minds of City Council and of the financial institutions together to make these projects happen.
Councilwoman Anne M. Sinclair explained that City Council has been creative and supportive in bringing people downtown and of both groups. She said that this is a huge commitment with legal issues that must be resolved.
Councilman Hamilton Osborne, Jr. added that if the city decided to purchase the Old Republican Bank Building that would in essence remove the property from the tax roll.
Mr. Temple Ligon, Reporter for the Columbia Star, told the members of Council that they were getting off cheap. He added that $100 million was spent to restore and renovate the 1,000 seat Venice Opera House when it caught fire.
There was a consensus of Council to direct Mr. Charles P. Austin, Sr., City Manager to explore if and how we can all come together to assist the two (2) organizations.
B. The Year of the Renaissance Art Project – Ms. Lowndes Smith, Director of External Relations for the Columbia Museum of Art
Ms. Lowndes Smith, Director of External Relations for the Columbia Museum of Art, reported that while she met with the City Center Partnership they discussed ways that could beautify Main Street during the Streetscape Project. She said that they came up with an idea to place art murals on the fences that line the Main Street sidewalks. She said that this would shade the construction that goes on behind the fences, but the murals would not obstruct the view. Ms. Smith said that they are seeking two (2) corporate sponsors to assist with the cost of supplies. She said that they would work with 22 schools within Richland and Lexington Counties to help produce the murals that would exhibit on the fences along with corporate logos and the City of Columbia logo. She said that they are also planning a kick off day.
Mr. Steve Gantt, Senior Assistant City Manager for Operations stated that this project would add activity to Main Street and that the contractors are excited about the idea. He said that they would draft a document that would hold the city harmless of any damages.
Upon motion by Ms. Devine, seconded by Mr. Rickenmann, Council voted unanimously to endorse the request to exhibit murals on the fences that outline the blocks under construction along Main Street subject to review by Mr. Charles P. Austin, Sr., City Manager.
C. Quality of Life Taskforce Update – Inspector Harold Reaves, Office of Public Safety
Inspector Harold Reaves, Quality of Life Taskforce, reported that since the inception of the Quality of Life Taskforce in November 2004 they have developed an effective communication network between their office, City service providers and community leaders to address the quality of life concerns. He said that they would continue to push towards their goal to ensure that every citizen is able to enjoy a higher standard of living within their neighborhood. He said that the taskforce handles a range of complaints dealing with animals, overgrown yards, noise, parking violations and structures in dilapidated condition. Inspector Reaves reported that as of January 31, 2005, the Livability Court has reviewed 125 cases of which 51 properties were abated; 12 cases were unfounded; 8 structures were demolished and 1 case was referred to the Community Development Department for financial assistance.
Ms. Kathryn Fenner, University Hill Neighborhood Nuisance Abatement Chair reported that their community has done a lot to reduce blight in the area. She said that this approach works and incredible strides have been made over the past three (3) months. She referred to it as a low cost high yield endeavor to get folks to do what they are supposed to. Ms. Fenner introduced Mr. Jerry Brewer the University of South Carolina Director of Student Life who has been walking through the neighborhood. In closing, she requested cooperation with enforcing the liquor laws in Five Points.
· City Council adjourned the Work Session at 6:00 p.m. to break prior to convening the regular meeting.
Respectfully submitted by:
Erika D. Moore