Lynnwood Approves Pfd -- Job Is Raising Convention-Center Funds
Seattle Times Snohomish County Bureau
Lynnwood leaders have been talking for years about revamping the city's sprawling image to attract more visitors.
Last night, the City Council opened its pocketbook to back up the rhetoric, approving a package of measures to demonstrate support for a budding public-private partnership: a new entertainment district anchored by a convention center and conference hotel.
Most significantly, the council authorized the formation of a Public Facilities District (PFD), a board with the power to sell bonds and raise money to pay for a convention center or other projects.
"I think that really is a major step forward," said Jim Cutts, community-development director.
Thanks to a new state law, the PFD will be able to collect an estimated $450,000 a year in state sales-tax rebates without raising local taxes, as long as ground is broken for a project by Jan. 1, 2003.
The PFD board will consist of five members appointed by the City Council, three of them based on recommendations from local business and labor leaders.
A convention-center project has not been formally proposed, but a recent consultant's report recommended building a new hotel and convention center as the centerpiece of an "entertainment district" designed to attract more tourism dollars to the city.
Although the convention center and hotel would be owned by private developers, city officials say the public would benefit from the boost to the local economy.
"The city gets a good return on it. That's what economic development is all about," Cutts said.
Local hoteliers have supported the concept, hoping that overflow from a convention center and adjoining hotel would help fill the city's 1,400 other hotel rooms.
The council also agreed last night to cover one-third of the $103,000 budget for a task force of business and property owners assigned to come up with a more specific plan for the proposed entertainment district and convention center.
The South Snohomish County Chamber of Commerce will solicit its members for contributions to pay for the remainder of the task force's expenses, said Jenene Gibbs, chamber president.
A June report by Olympia-based consultant Chandler and Brooks suggested building the pedestrian-oriented entertainment core in a 77-acre triangle bounded by 44th Avenue West, 196th Street Southwest and Interstate 5.
The convention center would be constructed on the site of the vacant Best warehouse store at 198th Street Southwest and 40th Avenue West.
That report also recommended focusing the developments around a "trolley theme," in keeping with the city's annual Trolley Days Festival, which begins this weekend.
The council last night also created two city jobs to oversee the community-development and tourism efforts.
A full-time economic-development manager will receive $105,000 in salary and benefits, and a half-time special-projects manager will be paid $38,000.
The latest efforts to get a convention center built in South Snohomish County follow previous proposals that never got off the ground.
Last year, voters overwhelmingly rejected a proposed $44.9 million convention and arts center at the Best warehouse site.
Critics objected to the center, which they said would have increased property taxes in South Snohomish County while primarily benefiting businesses in Lynnwood.
Jim Brunner's phone-message number is 425-745-7808. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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