Backers of the Cascade Saloon rehabilitation project in Downtown Greensboro will appear before City Council on Dec. 20 to ask for an extension of their deadline for stabilizing the dilapidated structure, to which city taxpayers have committed some $475,000 in an effort to keep it from being torn down.
In a complex but minimally debated corporate arrangement, the City of Greensboro agreed to give the Cascade Saloon building to Preservation Greensboro Development Fund, who would then stabilize the building before transferring it on to Rentenbach Constructors.
The original ask of $175,000 to stabilize the structure ballooned this spring when PGDF and Rentenbach came back asking for an additional $300,000 in order to make the project feasible. A February 2016 email from city planners estimated the total stabilization costs had grown to $850,000 and that it was “not a good business deal” for the corporations unless city taxpayers kicked in another $300,000. The memo states that the building would have a $2.4 million value once rehabilitated, but that Rentenbach would have spent $3.6 million on the project in order to “push their reputation as redevelopment leaders.”
The council voted 8-1 in favor of the grant after backers set out an aggressive timeline for rehabilitation, including a Dec. 31 deadline for PGDF to complete the structure’s stabilization.
PGDF took title to the building, which sits along the main railroad tracks running across Elm Street, earlier this fall. The grant agreement with the city required that stabilization work be completed by PGDF by Dec. 31 before they gift the building to Rentenbach.
In a Dec. 12 memo to council from Assistant City Manager David Parrish, staff sought to reassure council that the project remains on track and that no additional tax dollars are being requested. Rentenbach Constructors and Christman Capital Development Company are partners in the project with PGDF.
“While visually, it appears work is not taking place, the level of stabilization activity in terms of design work, regulatory approvals and work with the railroads has been significant,” Parrish wrote. “Christman is still committed to this project. Rentenbach, a Christman Capital Development Company, will invest at least $2.925 million in the renovation and restoration of the historic structure and will relocate 25 existing jobs and create 6 new full-time positions at the site. The site will serve as a regional corporate headquarters for Rentenbach.”
Attorney Marsh Prause serves as the chair of PGDF’s board of trustees and has been the primary booster of the project for several years. In an email exchange earlier this month, Prause said the project’s momentum remains strong.
Changes to the project’s design to allow for more preservation of the building’s historic fabric have slowed progress and negotiations with the NC Rail Road and Norfolk Southern have been “incredibly complicated,” Prause said.
“Importantly, however, the fundamental project finances and timeline are intact – we are not asking for any more City money and we are still set to complete the project on schedule, by the end of 2017,” Prause wrote. “That means that the investment and job creation aspects of the UDIG agreement are being honored – the investment and job creation will happen on schedule.”
Both the NC Rail Road and Norfolk Southern refused to comment on the negotiations or provide any insight into the process or plans for future rail expansion in that corridor.
However, both Prause and Parrish said that Christman “does not see barriers to the project’s feasibility from the railroads.”
“The railroads have identified all of the safety and insurance standards that need to be met for the project and Christman is prepared to meet them all,” Parrish wrote.
The council will discuss the requested extension at its Dec. 20 meeting. The request would extend the stabilization deadline to June 30, 2017. Parrish told council members that “the project is still expected to be completed by 12/31/2017.”