The city already has plans to upgrade the City Auditorium, and while they’re at it, want to spur more development downtown by opening up the adjacent City Parking Plaza for new uses.
“The proposal from the WRK/Chief team is for a large scale mixed-use development that will compliment what the city is looking to do with the expanding and renovating the City Auditorium,” says Dave Rippe, executive director of the Hastings Economic Development Corporation.
Rippe says the community has a need for space to accommodate 200 to 400 people, but exactly what will be built over the block between the Auditorium and City Hall will be fleshed out over the next three months of negotiations with Chief and WRK. The Citizens Review Committee that recommended the chosen proposal says it will likely include convention and lodging space.
“There’s a hotel function, there’s some other retail-commercial functions -- it’s a huge project for the community of Hastings,” says Chuck Shoemaker, a Hastings business owner and attorney who serves on the committee.
The council voted 8-0 to approve the developers after hearing from the committee and Rippe. Two proposals were sent to the city, and Shoemaker says while both were good, they chose the one they think will boost downtown the most.
“It would’ve been an excellent proposal for the community, it might not have been quite the dramatic change in the community that we think this proposal is going to be,” explained Shoemaker.
Council members call it an exciting move, but caution there’s a long way to go. Rippe says it’s a big step that will let them make more final decisions.
“Right now we’re dealing in concepts and we’re dealing in the finer points of how public/private partnership can work -- really no firm dates for when we might start construction or move forward,” he says.
A $750,000 grant from the state will help Hastings pay for the auditorium upgrades, but economic development leaders say where funding for the development project will come from and how much it could cost the city won't be known until the process moves further along.
Chief and WRK have done work in Lincoln, including the Rail Yard, Canopy Lofts and Hyatt Place hotel developments next to the Pinnacle Bank Arena. The city of Lincoln also chose them to develop the entire new Haymarket area.
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