Budget questions arise on Destination 2014 Town Center

Members of the city finance committee had questions about the overall financial picture as proposed for Mayor Gabriel J. Campana’s Destination 2014 Town Center project.

While the committee approved a resolution between LHP Management (parent company of the main developer, The Liberty Group) and the city for the project, the resolution was approved, but carried “no recommendation.”

Voting for passage were Councilmen Jonathan Williamson and Randall J. Allison while Councilwoman Liz Miele voted against the resolution as presented.

Williamson, who is chairman of the committee, said he liked the vision of the project in terms of improving connectivity with other parts of the central business district, its potential ability to stimulate tourism and provide jobs and its transportation enhancement, including the multi-modal facet.

In particular, the committee had questions about the added expenses at the Destination site bounded by Elmira, West Third, Hepburn and West Fourth streets.

The original costs were $3.3 million and after adjustments it is proposed at $4.8 million.

Other questions were focused on the proposed expense at the Trade and Transit Centre II.

“If we build at Trade and Transit Centre II we need more money than what we have,” Williamson said. “We’re spending more and getting less at the Trade and Transit II site including loss of 150 parking spaces,” he said.

Additionally, the committee wanted assurance that Williamsport Parking Authority would be part of the overall process.

The main component at the Destination site is Liberty Arena, a 90,000-square-foot facility that will provide activities such as rock climbing, laser tag, soccer, basketball, football, lacrosse and field hockey. The developer Dan Klingerman, president and CEO of The Liberty Group, a Loyalsock Township-based company, was not at the committee meeting but said he also plans to renovate the existing YMCA building along West Fourth Street, transforming it into office space.

The project includes the “Williamsport Green,” a grass area near West Fourth and Hepburn streets, which has been reduced in size from the original concept.

In a separate motion, the committee gave a positive recommendation for the administration to submit a $3 million Redevelopment Capital Assistant grant application to the state Office of Budget to ally some of the project costs. The city was notified it is recipient of the grant, but had its consulting firms Rettew Associates and Penn Strategies prepare the acceptance application.

The grant money is to be spent on projects at the Destination site and Trade and Transit II, said Laura Templeton, regional manager at Rettew Associates.

The plan at the Destination site shows fewer projects than envisioned earlier. The new version removed a commercial building/restaurant along Hepburn Street, replacing the area for a bus bay for pickups and drop offs by River Valley Transit. It also reduces the size of the proposed green and removed the proposed parking deck along West Third Street near Davis Insurance Co.

The proposal indicates $2.2 million will be for the developer costs, $300,000 will be spent to remove blight, $500,000 will be committed by the parking authority and $500,000 will be committed by the Lycoming County Visitors Bureau.

As the process continues, the city also is seeking a federal Transportation Administration grant in the amount of $12 million.

The council will hear a presentation on the Town Center project Thursday night.