Downtown convention center

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A timeline has been set for construction of a new downtown Terre Haute Convention Center, shown here in an artist's rendering. Pending a sale of bonds and property acquisition, construction is scheduled to start July 19. 

The Vigo County Council on Tuesday took the final steps toward approving a downtown convention center.

The unanimously approved an interlocal agreement which sets funding for the center from the county and the city of Terre Haute, as well as the Terre Haute Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Terre Haute Department of Redevelopment. 

The council also approved the sale of up to $22 million in general revenue bonds, with a property tax backup to secure a lower interest rate. Additionally the council approved a cash payment of $5 million from the county's Economic Development Income Tax (EDIT), which reduced the total amount the county needed to bond.

With the bonds, it makes the county's total contribution $27 million of the $32.5 million project, to be about 42,000 square feet with a parking garage with about 500 parking spaces.

The agreement pledges $10 million each from the city and county, $5 million from the Terre Haute Convention and Visitors Bureau of Vigo County, to pay off the bonds. The CVB already contributed $1.25 million to the project in 2018.

Another $3 million will come from the city Redevelopment Commission, with remaining funds from the Capital Improvement Board using the new food and beverage tax receipts.

The Redevelopment Commission is also pledging $500,000 in backup financing in the event the city is unable to meet its obligations and is making a one-time cash contribution of $3 million for property acquisition and related costs. The Redevelopment Commission will also seek to issue a $4.5 million TIF bond to facilitate the construction of a hotel parking garage on the northwest section of the downtown site.

After a more complete review of expenses and income, it was determined the center would produce more than $1.4 million, while having more than $1.7 million in expenses. That made the project have a projected annual loss of more than $260,000, however, that is lower than a previous estimate of more than $500,000. The difference will be covered from the food and beverage tax.

In another issue, the council learned the total construction cost of a site a former golf course property at 500 West Honey Creek Drive as the site for a new county jail. County Attorney Michael Wright said the site will require a construction cost of $64.5 million. 

County Commissioners will pay $510,830 for the site, initially paying $25,000 until the property is cleared for rezoning through the Terre Haute City Council. Commissioners will use more than $1 million remaining of a $3 million appropriation from the council. That $3 million is not included in the $64.5 million construction cost, Wright said.

Wright said the owners of the property have agreed to pay one-third of the cost up to $50,000 to build an access road for a new jail.

The council debated the issue past 10:30 p.m. before approving the purchase of the site in a 5-2 vote with council members Chris Switzer and Lisa Spence-Bunnett opposing.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached 812-231-4204 or Follow on Twitter@TribStarHoward.

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