AURORA | By this time next year, the city of Aurora will be the proud owner of a 30,000-square-foot conference center and adjacent parking garage.
City Council voted last week to pay almost $25 million to Corporex Colorado to construct the conference center and parking garage at the Fitzsimons Village development on East Colfax Avenue.
Corporex is also building a 245-room hotel on the site just across Colfax from the bustling Anschutz Medical Campus.
Under the terms of the agreement, the city will pay a Corporex subsidiary to manage the conference center for a $50,000 annual fee. According to city officials, indirect revenue generated from use of the facility — lodger’s tax from the hotel, sales tax from restaurant — will be split between Aurora’s urban renewal authority, Corporex and the metropolitan district after bonds and operational costs are paid.
Like the overall cost of the building, that management fee will be paid for with tax revenues generated at the site.
Council voted 10-1 in favor of the deal, with only Councilwoman Molly Markert opposed.
Construction on the project was slated to start in late 2013, but hasn’t begun yet. Corporex officials did not return calls for comment this week.
When they announced the project last year, city officials said they hoped to have the hotel and conference open in early 2015.
The agreement between the city and Corporex is a bit different from the tax-incentive deals the city typically arranges with developers. In other deals, like the ones that paid for the Arapahoe Crossing and Gardens on Havana Developments, some sales tax revenues generated at the projects went back to the developers for several years.
At Fitzsimons Village, some sales tax revenues from the site will cover the $25 million cost of the project. Jason Batchelor, th city’s director of finance, said the city will issue bonds to pay Corporex during construction, and the sales tax revenues will be used to pay off those bonds.
And, in this case, the city will own the conference center and parking garage.
“It’s a little different, but you do own an asset,” Batchelor said.
Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan said while the deal is a bit different than other incentive packages, it makes sense for this project.
“Corporex doesn’t need a conference center, the city needs a conference center,” he said.
When it is complete, the conference center will be part of the hotel and managed by the hotel.
Hogan said the project is an important one because it accomplishes two long-time goals for city leaders.
For one, it will bring more conference space, something the city has sorely lacked in recent years. The lack of conference space has even lead to some of the city’s marquee events to be hosted in Denver in recent years.
Also, the project means continued development on the south side of Colfax, something city leaders have hoped for since the Anschutz Medical Campus first opened in 2007.
“It’s another piece of the revitalization of Colfax. It is something that everybody wants,” he said. “It will provide opportunities not just for the city but for University of Colorado, Children’s Hospital Colorado, University of Colorado Hospital and the VA hospital when it’s finished,” he said.
Markert said she voted against the deal because she has reservations about the city owning a convention center.
“I’m not sure why the city is in the convention center business,” she said.
If the project fails, and business at the convention center flops, Markert said taxpayers will be left with a useless asset. Granted, Markert said, convention center space would be relatively easy to remodel, but she said she doesn’t like the idea of future taxpayers being on the hook for those costs.
If the deal involved the city raking in profits from the convention center instead of Corporex, Markert said she could have supported the deal.
Clarification: An earlier version of this story said Corporex would directly profit from the convention center. According to the city, all operational and bond costs would be covered and indirect tax revenue generated from visitors to the conference would be split three ways between Corporex and other entities.