State to be updated on Mason City downtown redevelopment project Friday

MASON CITY — Mason City leaders will be heading to Des Moines tomorrow to update the Iowa Economic Development Authority’s Board of Directors on the River City Renaissance redevelopment project that’s a part of the Iowa Reinvestment Act program. The board has pre-approved about $7 million in state funding to help leverage a $36 million project that includes redeveloping the western part of Southbridge Mall into a multi-purpose center that includes an ice arena, as well as a hotel and a music pavilion. The major change in that plan has been the hotel. After G8 Development defaulted on a development agreement last year, Gatehouse Capital proposed to place a hotel in the southeastern portion of the main Southbridge Mall parking lot, attach the hotel via a skywalk to Music Man Square, renovate Music Man Square into a conference center, and relocate the museum portion of Music Man Square next to the hotel.

City Administrator Brent Trout says they’ll be talking to the IEDA Board’s Due Diligence Committee tomorrow morning to explain the new concept. He says they want to outline that concept and are on board with the new plan. “The state’s been very supportive and we think they will be here as well. We’ve been told that from informal discussions that we’ve had, but we need to formally go in front of them and explain to them our concept, and introduce them to our new developer who we are trying to get a development agreement with.”

Trout says even with the change in plans from placing a hotel on what currently is the City Hall parking lot to the Gatehouse proposal, the city won’t have to renegotiate with IEDA. He says while it’s not a renegotiation, they still need to get their approval. “We submitted one thing, one description of a project, and now we’re changing that description of the project significantly. That significant change, we need to ensure they are going to agree with that. We also don’t want to put ourselves in a position where we have to re-score, where we’d have to go through a formal presentation again to the point that they decide whether or not our project is worthy.”

Trout says state officials may see it as a more worthy project in a number of ways, but the city is a step behind where they want to be in the process. He says, “We don’t have the development agreement yet, nothing solid. So we’re asking them to make sure that they are okay with the project as we are proposing it to change, and then seeking input from them so if there is something they don’t like as we’re proposing it that we can then modify that to the point they will be okay with it. Eventually they will have to approve those changes to our project in order to move it forward.”

The Board of Directors tomorrow will also be asked to approve a financial assistance application from Cargill of Mason City. The company is in the process of starting an 11-thousand-700 square foot expansion of their egg processing facility at 1750 South Benjamin that would allow for the installation of a new egg cook production line, adding over 40 jobs in the next year.

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