COEUR d'ALENE - It's official.
Lake City Development Corp. agreed Wednesday to allocate $11.5 million to the city of Coeur d'Alene to pay for Phase 1 of the McEuen Field project.
But before anything can be cashed in, the urban renewal agency said it wants to add contingencies to the financial pledge to ensure LCDC is involved in the process as the park design moves forward.
"I understand this is a concept and I support it," said Brad Jordan, board member, on the downtown park's redevelopment plan moving forward. "But it's LCDC funding so we have to have some control over it."
The board didn't name what those contingencies would be.
Rather, they will be crafted at a future meeting. The goal would be to ensure LCDC stay involved in the process as the park plan moves forward, and allow the agency a say where exactly their tax exempt dollars would be going on the large-scale project.
One contingency that must happen, however, is that the Coeur d'Alene City Council approve the $1.9 architectural and engineering services contract with the park's designers, Team McEuen.
That contract, if approved by council Tuesday, March 6, would turn the conceptual plan into bid documents that would blueprint specifically how to break ground.
Parks Director Doug Eastwood sought the LCDC financial support before going to council to show the city had the financial backing, even as parts of the project still have to be worked out.
"You're either in or you're not," he told the board. "It's a partnership that goes 100 percent."
Nevertheless, Jordan said he was wary of repeating the Midtown renovation project, where LCDC was the main financial supporter, but had little oversight on the city project after the fact.
"Reassurance," board member Dave Patzer said, "instead of 'write us a check and trust us in the end.'"
The pledge still put an official dollar amount from LCDC on the project itself. That figure had been a much-discussed unknown in the community as the redevelopment project was working through the planning process for more than a year. Some in the community felt that LCDC's tax increment financing, accumulated from property taxes, shouldn't be allocated to a large-scale park design. Others said LCDC was created in 1997 specifically to one day fund a McEuen Field project downtown.
"I'm not quite sure what the hurry was," Rita Sims-Snyder, who has opposed the park's planning process at several civic meetings, told the board Wednesday. "To be real honest, (I'm) shocked that you approved $11.5 million."
But Tina Johnson said the agency should follow through on why it was created.
"McEuen Park is tired, worn out and vastly underused," she said.
The pledge is enough to allow Eastwood to present the slimmed down $14 million Phase 1 and contract extension to the City Council March 6, with all but roughly $300,000 in hand. Bids on Phase 1 could come in much lower than estimated, he said, as other bids on recent projects have due to the economic climate.
But it could set up another passionate McEuen Field debate at the City Council, which is divided on the topic. In January, the council decided 4 votes to 3 not to send the project to a public advisory vote, with Mayor Sandi Bloem splitting the tie.
The contract approval is the biggest contingency for which LCDC is waiting.
Without it, "then it wouldn't be a project," Eastwood said, as he left the meeting.