Wind Creek turns green next week

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Wind Creek is certainly one of the indices of our economic health.

from Jon Harris, “Wind Creek Bethlehem to reopen next Monday.” Morning Call, June 22, 2020.

A new age of casino gambling in the Lehigh Valley will get its start next Monday when Wind Creek Bethlehem reopens for the first time in more than three months.

Wind Creek, which closed to the public March 15 to help stem the spread of the coronavirus, made the announcement Monday. The news comes days after the Lehigh Valley learned it would enter the green phase of the state’s reopening plan Friday, a phase that permits casinos to open at 50% occupancy.

During the pandemic, Wind Creek Bethlehem was able to pay its roughly 2,400 employees through the end of May but furloughed 2,095 of them June 1, as the downturn entered its third month. Wind Creek Hospitality President and CEO Jay Dorris told The Morning Call this month that the casino hopes to bring all employees back as operations ramp back up.

With the potential shift in consumer preferences following this pandemic, however, Dorris said Wind Creek was tapping the brakes on a $250 million plan to transform the crumbling Bethlehem Steel No. 2 Machine Shop into an indoor water park and entertainment complex.

But Wind Creek still wants to break ground by late summer on its $100 million hotel expansion, a project that could take 14-16 months to complete.

While a reopening date did not become clear until Monday, Wind Creek had kept patrons informed of what to expect when the casino reopens. That included plans for small groups of invited guests to start, followed days later by a reopening to the public at a reduced capacity.

“Wind Creek Hospitality has crafted a reopening plan that includes utilizing a gaming reservation system,” said Kathy McCracken, executive vice president and general manager of Wind Creek Bethlehem. “This will help our team manage appropriate capacity in the building as well as providing a way to continuously clean the gaming floor throughout the day.”

Safety precautions include temperature checks for everyone entering the facility and masks or facial coverings for employees. Guests are asked to bring their own masks.

Players who do not have their own masks will be able to get them on site for small donations supporting Second Harvest Food Bank of Lehigh Valley & Northeast PA. Smoking will be allowed only in an outdoor area in the north parking lot.

One of the Lehigh Valley’s largest employers, the casino had some employees test positive for COVID-19. That included Jonathan Shen, a 31-year-old table games supervisor who died April 22 following a four-week battle with COVID-19.

During an interview June 12, Dorris declined to disclose the number of employee cases but noted the casino had the situation arise and tried to be proactive in giving employees the necessary leave to get treated and recover. He said Wind Creek was following all guidance, including notifying those who were in close contact with someone who tested positive.

“We’ve had to deal with it, and we’re going to be dealing with that for some time now going forward,” he said.

Some good budget news: Wind Creek shortfall significantly less

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Sara K. Satullo, “Wind Creek Bethlehem goes all in and pays $2.5M host fee to city.” lehighvalleylive.com, April 15, 2020.

Christina Tatu, “Wind Creek Bethlehem says it will pay $10 million host fee to Allentown and Bethlehem.” Morning Call, April 15, 2020.

Wind Creek Bethlehem says it intends to pay the $10 million annual host fee that goes to Allentown and Bethlehem.

The fee is paid out each quarter, and the first $2.5 million installment was paid as scheduled on Wednesday, Wind Creek said. Of that money, $2 million will go to Bethlehem and $500,000 will go to Allentown, said Eric Evans, Bethlehem’s business administrator.

The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue gave casinos the option of deferring the first payment, but Kathy McCracken, Wind Creek Bethlehem’s general manager, said the casino understands that “community need is as great as ever” and wanted to be sure the money was delivered as planned.

“When Wind Creek’s leadership team arrived last spring, they pledged a commitment to our community. This crisis has given them an early opportunity to fulfill that pledge, and for that, we are very thankful,” said Mayor Robert Donchez.

Earlier this month, Bethlehem officials anticipated a $5 million to $7 million deficit as it was unclear whether Wind Creek would pay all of the host fee, which is equal to about 10% of the city’s general fund budget.

The city still projects an overall shortfall for 2020, but it will be significantly less than the $5 million to $7 million initially projected.

In addition to the annual host fee, Bethlehem also receives about $1.8 million, or $150,000 per month, in money from gaming revenue. With the casino closed since March 15, that money is not coming in, Evans said.

Wind Creek has said the casino would be closed indefinitely after several employees tested positive for the coronavirus. Since then, the governor shut down all the state’s casinos. Wind Creek committed to paying employees through the end of May.

Bethlehem budget takes a gut-punch

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Christina Tatu, “Wind Creek closure hits Bethlehem’s budget, contributing to projected $5 million to $7 million deficit.” Morning Call, April 9, 2020.

As the coronavirus shutdown drags on, Bethlehem is looking at a $5 million to $7 million budget deficit this year, driven significantly by a reduction in the host fee the city receives from Wind Creek Bethlehem.

The casino was expected to pay Bethlehem a $9.8 million fee this year, city officials said. But the fee is based on gambling revenues and the casino has been closed since March 15.

Mayor Robert Donchez, during a news conference Thursday, said the city loses more than $800,000 each month the casino is closed. If the closure extends through the end of April, that will amount to more than $1 million.

“There are so many unknowns. We try to make adjustments on particular line items, but it’s very difficult to do. We do not have any lead time on how long the casino could be shutdown,” said Eric Evans, the city’s business administrator. He warned the $5 million-$7 million deficit is a conservative estimate that could change in the coming weeks.

“We definitely took a punch in the gut with this. We are fortunate, in the last several years we have strengthened our financial position and rainy-day fund. By the September-October budget season we should have a clear idea of what damage we are facing,” Evans said.

Other line items in Bethlehem’s $80 million budget that are contributing to the projected deficit include a loss of earned income tax and amusement taxes paid by attractions like Wind Creek and ArtsQuest.

To stem the loses, the city has implemented a hiring freeze and is considering freezing the budget on major projects, Donchez said.

One option would be to delay the opening of Memorial Pool until next year. The 63-year-old flagship pool had been closed for $5.2 million in renovations and was set to reopen this summer. City officials could also delay certain infrastructure projects.

Bethlehem officials said they have discussed furloughing city employees but no decisions have been made.

Another Construction Update: the new Wind Creek Hotel, bonus for the City

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Sara K. Satullo, “Wind Creek Bethlehem goes swanky with new hotel thanks to lucrative tax incentive.” lehighvalleylive.com., February 7, 2020.  — PHOTOS

Note: Wind Creek is giving a portion of $$$$ back to the City in untypical fashion. It’s getting harder for Gadfly to be cranky about their water park idea. Sigh.

The hotel is expected to generate up to $1.5 million in annual CRIZ increment once it opens and 20% of that — $300,000 — will come back to Bethlehem’s CRIZ authority, Donchez said. This will allow the city to start tackling important projects on its wish list, like new Christmas decorations, improvements to lighting on the Southside and buying land for South Bethlehem Greenway connections.

Here are the videos Gadfly promised a few days ago.

Brian Carr, Executive Vice President and General Manager at Wind Creek, describes the historic need for more hotel rooms and all the other advantages that the new construction of the second hotel will afford.

Here Carr shows off some of the design of the second hotel and how it links with the existing one.

Wind Creek poised to use CRIZ to pay off construction loans for the second hotel and to pay for some City projects

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Nicole Radzievich, “Wind Creek positioned for lucrative tax incentive to build second hotel.” Morning Call, February 20, 2020.

Wind Creek advanced its case Thursday to tap a lucrative tax incentive for a $100 million hotel near its casino in south Bethlehem. The authority overseeing the City Revitalization and Improvement Zone deemed the 12-story hotel as a “qualified” project for the incentive, which casino executives say would make the hotel grander with 270 rooms, a swanky lobby, spa, bar and 35,000 square feet of meeting space including three ballrooms, positioning Wind Creek to attract larger meeting groups.

The CRIZ would allow developers to tap certain state and local taxes derived from new development to pay off construction loans. Money would also be set aside to help pay for city projects such as lighting on the South Side, acquisition of land for connections at the Greenway rails-to-trails park, and Christmas decorations.

Wind Creek, the city’s largest employer, expects the project to add 80 operations jobs and 400 construction jobs. Wind Creek employs 2,350 people. Wind Creek’s proposed hotel would be built near the 282-room one and wrap around the Wind Creek Event Center. All told, there would be 362,000 square feet of new development and 50,236 square feet of renovations, according to plans expected to go before the planning commission next week.

Last year, Wind creek executives said they had been considering the concept of a a $250 million plan to turn the crumbling No. 2 Machine Shop into a 300,000-square-foot adventure and water park that also would include a roughly 400-room hotel. Carr said at Thursday’s meeting he was not prepared to talk about that project and wanted to focus on the hotel.

A second hotel is a safe bet for Wind Creek because the existing 282-room hotel carries a 93% occupancy rate, resulting in visitors being turned away four nights a week, and demand for meeting space has exceeds the facility’s capacity.

Gadfly’s catching up on Wind Creek news and will provide some video next time.

Hotel Bethlehem receives approval for delay in expansion plans

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Nicole Radzievich, “As Wind Creek plans a 2nd hotel, Hotel Bethlehem asks for more time on its $37 million expansion.” Morning Call, January 13, 2020.

Nicole Radzievich, “‘This is a timing issue,’ Hotel Bethlehem partner says about expansion.” Morning Call, January 16, 2020.

Sara K. Satullo, “With looming Wind Creek expansion, Hotel Bethlehem gets 2 more years to grow.” lehighvalleylive.com, January 16, 2020.

The plans for expanded development of the Hotel Bethlehem that generated so much discussion and excitement 2-3 years ago have been put on a bit of a pause because of new hotels in Center Valley and the proposed development by Wind Creek.

Hotel Bethlehem managing partner Bruce Haines is still optimistic about the project but says the timing right now is not right.

See his good description of the situation here in his appearance before the CRIZ board this week seeking and gaining approval for an extension of the expansion planning.

More on creative placemaking in Bethlehem

As another example of SteelStacks’ position as a model creative placemaking project, Tony Hanna pointed Gadfly to this “how-to” 2017 article (the precursor of the “how-to” manual we mentioned last time), “Five Steps toward Implementing Creative Placemaking.

SteelStacks is cited under step #3, the business case. “demonstrating the stakeholder benefits.”

Look at the distinguished company SteelStacks is keeping in the article — The Parks at Walter Reed, D.C.’s Monroe Street Market, the 303 Artway In Denver, the Union Market District in Northeast D.C.

Tony also provided a link to a 2012 article — “Smokestack Lightning: The Rebirth of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania” — that enables us to take a trip down Memory Lane, all the way back to 2004, when Mayor John Callahan presented ” Bethlehem’s design challenge” to the Mayors’ Institute on City Design in Chicago, a group Gadfly first heard about reading Jeff Speck this summer.

“Among the most memorable — and prescient — feedback [Callahan] received” at MICD  “was to leave the blast furnaces as they were.”

And the rest is history, as they say.

So cute is Mayor Callahan’s dream future recounted in the article: “I always had this dream, when I first made the decision to run for mayor, that there was going to be a time in my life when I could load up the grandkids into the car and drive around Bethlehem 30, 40 years later and point to a few things that happened while I was mayor.”

At SteelStack the kids will have to look up.

These two brief articles are worth your perusal.

And worth thinking about how Wind Creek seems to be taking another path to making place.

Which is where Gadfly started this thread yesterday.

SteelStacks the result of creative placemaking

“SteelStacks annually attracts 1 million visitors and delivers $55 million to the city.”

Gadfly doesn’t know much besides nine uses of the comma.

And even that is fading. He’s forgotten what an appositive is.

But he loves to learn new things.

And once again the student teaches the professor.

Gadfly mentioned his intrigue with “creative placemaking” in the context of Wind Creek a post or two ago.

And Bethlehem Redevelopment Authority executive director Tony Hanna — a memorable student of Gadfly’s at Lehigh — immediately jumped in to say that “one of America’s prime examples of [creative placemaking] is right here in Bethlehem — the SteelStacks campus and development.”

Tony said that he has “been working with the Urban Land Institute and their Creative Placemaking project for several years,” that “ULI is getting ready to publish a ‘How-To’ Manual on Creative Placemaking in 2020, and that Bethlehem and SteelStacks will be one of the major examples of successful planning and placemaking.”

In this new ULI publication, SteelStacks will be referenced in three areas: creative financing, operating strategies, and case studies.

Here’s the kind of thing we’ll find in the case studies section:

Bethlehem SteelStacks transformed the 124-acre site of the Bethlehem Steel Corp. manufacturing plant into an arts and culture campus that helped to revitalize and heal the city of Bethlehem. Operating for a century, the plant had produced steel for the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and the Chrysler Building in New York City, but it was shuttered when the steel industry moved overseas. The city debated whether to tear down the steel stacks and create something new but decided to restore the treasured historic assets. Residents who mourned the loss of the plant and the jobs it provided embraced the new complex with a sense of pride. The complex’s design now incorporates the steel stacks–a natural gas flame burns along the spine of the 230-foot-high steel sculptures. Financing included a TIF district approved in 2000, which generated over $100 million in TIF revenues through 2018, with over $60 million for infrastructure, amenities, construction, and maintenance, including a visitor center, performance plazas, a trestle restored as a pedestrian walkway and park, and public parking. Over $35 million funded debt service and principal payments for several bond issues and borrowings that will be paid off by 2020. Another $18 million in TIF revenues is anticipated by 2020 from a casino resort. SteelStacks annually attracts 1 million visitors and delivers $55 million to the city. On-going programming is key to attracting visitors and enhancing economic benefits. The project was recognized with a ULI Global Award for Excellence in 2015.

And SteelStacks won a prestigious placemaking-type award, not only acclaim but a $50,000 prize: the Rudy Bruner Gold Award for Urban Excellence.

Thanks for the info, Tony, and more from him on the Stacks and placemaking in the next post.

Still wrestling with Wind Creek

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There are some people with whom you just don’t argue.

One is your barber.

While you are in the chair. Especially for your holiday haircut.

Somehow Wind Creek came up.

And Gadfly stupidly said — as he has said several times in these pages — that the Wind Creek desire to make Bethlehem “the #1 destination in the Northeast” with a waterpark troubles him greatly.

Call him “Mohawk Gadfly” now.

Gadfly has taken somewhat of a beating in circles other than that surrounding the barber pole for holding the negative feeling about Wind Creek’s plan, making remarks about it here, and refusing to automatically genuflect to the Economic Deity.

(After all, he hasn’t even seen any plans or heard any details of the Wind Creek project, so how fair is that feeling?)

And he hasn’t quite been able to articulate why he feels that way. But he’s getting there.

Gadfly has the kind of mind where particles float around looking for a point of coalescence.

Particles like Wind Creek’s #1 destination quote, the goal of Festival UnBound, Dan Church’s line “the city has no jurisdiction over architectural style” (except in the historical districts), the “blending” architecture promoted by the Smith women, a line from one of the Festival UnBound panel members that “it matters who is at the table,” multiple posts and conversations about residents trying to control the quality of life in their neighborhoods, and the  “imploring” letter from the South Bethlehem Historical Society (remember that one?).

Coalescence occurred when a follower recently used the term “creative placemaking,” a term Gadfly had never heard, and a practice fairly new but apparently well known by people who work to shape public spaces, neighborhoods, cities, regions.

Gadfly did some quick google searches. So he’s no expert on “creative placemaking.” But he liked what he was able to glean from some surface reading.

If Gadfly understands “creative placemaking” correctly, artists are instrumental, catalytic in design processes.  And design comes bottom up, design grows out of the community, design is community-led.

Here’s one description of “creative placemaking”:

Creative placemaking refers to the process in which “partners from public, private, non-profit, and community sectors strategically shape the physical and social character of a neighborhood, town, city, or region around arts and cultural activities.” Creative placemaking advocates believe that community development projects benefit from the participation of artists at the onset of projects, and on the planning and design teams that shape our communities. . . . Forget the traditional, staid public meeting format and instead imagine artists engaging community members using multiple languages to generate meaningful dialogues, capturing their creativity and local knowledge to better inform the ultimate design of the project.

Or, again:

Creative placemaking is a process where community member, artists, arts and culture organizations, community developers, and other stakeholders use arts and cultural strategies to implement community-led change.

Wind Creek has bought some space in “our” town and is now going to give “us” a new identity of its own choosing.

(Or at least so it seems. Maybe there was more interactive discussion behind the scenes.)

Gadfly, as your self-appointed and — ha! — maybe self-serving representative resident, feels forced on his back, forearms at right angles, palms facing up, resisting the overpowering and unquestioned weight of economic argument.

Gadfly is soooo dramatic.

Simply put, Wind Creek is telling us what’s good for us.

Gadfly’s having a hard time with that.

It’s not like we are without an identity now.

Steeples and stacks.

It’s not like we cannot evolve a new identity.

That’s what Festival UnBound was all about.

But steeples and stacks and slides?

Gadfly’s learned there was a different way.

What if Wind Creek had engaged in a collaborative process with us of creative placemaking for that several acres in the southeast end of town instead of decreeing our destiny?

When it comes to creating identity, Gadfly would like to participate.

———

Gadfly’s quick google search on creative placemaking:

American Planning Association

Defining Creative Placemaking (NEA)

Approaches to Creative Placemaking

What is creative placemaking?

Bethlehem, a destination city — but not in the Wind Creek sense

https://www.peacewalk.org/

Lepoco 3

This is how we should think of Bethlehem as a destination city.

Not in a Wind Creek sense.

Time for the annual peace walk.

It’s a busy time of year, you say.

Join or leave the walk at three spots along the way.

You don’t have to be “religious.”

Would you join Gadfly again?

Peace matters.

Next Saturday

This is a good time of year to think of donating to LEPOCO, an unsung Bethlehem treasure.

“Once the public dollars are spent, gathering data for monitoring benefit can be like pulling teeth from a crocodile”

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Dana Grubb is a lifelong resident of the City of Bethlehem who worked 27 years for the City of Bethlehem in the department of community and economic development, as sealer of weights and measures, housing rehabilitation finance specialist, grants administrator, acting director of community and economic development, and deputy director of community development.

Gadfly,

Having administered many economic development grants in my time with the City, I absolutely agree that performance measurements would be extremely important to determine whether there is actually a benefit to the expenditure of public dollars on economic development projects. Philosophically, I have always taken issue how over time public dollars have evolved from paying for public infrastructure in support of development to actually funding the development itself, which I believe banks should be doing.

Grant applications for state and federal funds generally require that public benefit be measured. How many jobs and what kinds of jobs (salaries?) will be created, how many construction jobs were created, what is the projected increase in taxes, is there any spin-off benefit to other local businesses, etc. are the kinds of projections that can make or break an application for funding assistance.

However, once the public dollars are spent, gathering data for monitoring benefit can be like pulling teeth from a crocodile. Cooperation by businesses isn’t stellar. I also used to wonder whether anybody, particularly elected officials, even cared if that data was gathered. After all, the positive press and political benefit of having delivered a grant is all about re-election and public image of “bringing home the bacon” for politicians. As the City’s grants administrator, my leverage to get data dropped drastically once the money was spent to help a business be constructed. Perhaps that has improved over time, but my cynical side tells me that this kind of business development assistance was more about politics than anything else. It’s kind of like your grocer collecting for a charitable cause at check-out and then touting that they contributed $1 million to some cause. They didn’t, you and I and many others did!. Public dollars belong to us and politicians like to act like Santa Claus with everyone else’s money!

So, Peter’s thought is sound, but I’m not so sure whether the cooperation and/or political will exist to pursue data driven results when public dollars go into business development. At least in days past when public infrastructure was built to support that development, the public had a tangible asset in place such as roads, traffic signals, public utilities, landscaping, and information technology infrastructure.

Dana

TIF revisited

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Gadfly:

I think you’re maybe confusing TIF and CRIZ.

The taxes that were captured under the TIF were used on public improvements throughout the TIF area. They were not returned to the casino in any fashion.

The end of the TIF is not a loss to Wind Creek, who pay their real estate taxes no matter if there is a TIF or not. When the TIF expires, those taxes will now go to the BASD, COB, and NC.

There was no direct benefit to the casino unless one considers public infrastructure that was built using TIF funding having a spin-off effect.

For example, completion of the Hoover Mason Trestle or SteelStacks using TIF created an attraction that might draw hotel business, restaurant business or gambling clientele to the casino complex.

The end of the TIF simply means that there will no longer be that public funding component to complete projects like those I mentioned earlier.

Dana Grubb

Thanks, Dana!

Pausing on Peter’s posts

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Peter Crownfield made two comments on posts recently that are easily missed because of the WordPress format for comments — and I’d like to foreground them here.

Peter: Is this [the newly proposed Wind Creek hotel and etcetera] to be a climate-neutral (net zero) building? Is it to be fossil-fuel free? If it doesn’t meet these basics, they should not be allowed to go forward.

We don’t have a real Climate Action Plan in place yet.

But Gadfly thinks we should be thinking that we have a figurative one in place and acting as if it were real.

That is, that every new building now should be held to the rigorous standards of the plan that we will have.

For instance, I’m afraid that the Polk Street Garage will get through without the kind of thinking about solar power that the Environmental Advisory Council folk prompted the Parking Authority about.

The BPA response to the EAC was, to me, far too vague.

For instance, Gadfly is not sure at Planning Commission meetings etc that he hears questions about energy saving design and so forth.

We should be thinking that way even though rules aren’t in place, shouldn’t we?

If Wind Creek doesn’t pass the kind of scrutiny Peter suggests, they should be stopped. No reason why, with their resources, they are not a model of energy efficiency, even without being forced to be.

Gadfly might feel good about Wind Creek’s plans to make Bethlehem the no. 1 destination in the Northeast for a water park if at least their campus was a model in this respect.

Peter: I have not analyzed the TIFs in question, nor have I seen any comprehensive analysis by the city. I have seen quite a few comprehensive studies of TIFs (and similar tax incentive programs) in other areas, and most of them indicate a net loss to the municipalities, even after the TIF ends. I thought Bethlehem was going to start analyzing all these incentive programs in terms of financial results, jobs added, and other predicted benefits.

Yeah.

I would very much like to see a comprehensive analysis of the first 10 years of the Sands, for instance.

These incentive programs come with a lot of promises, a lot of hype — have those things been delivered? I almost feel that such an analysis has to be done by an independent body.

So we’re seeing hype surrounding the recent announcement of Wind Creek’s first major phase.

But what’s our experience with such forecasts?  Can we trust?

A TIF Tutorial

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Dana Grubb is a lifelong resident of the City of Bethlehem who worked 27 years for the City of Bethlehem in the department of community and economic development, as sealer of weights and measures, housing rehabilitation finance specialist, grants administrator, acting director of community and economic development, and deputy director of community development.

“And the additional real estate taxes the new construction will generate will immediately help the city’s bottom line. In past years, county, city and school district tax revenue generated from improvements there went into a special taxing fund — the Tax Increment Financing — to pay for infrastructure improvements at the former Bethlehem Steel land. The TIF expires next year.”
                                                            Morning Call, December 4

Gadfly,

Along with then City Solicitor Joseph ‘Jay’ Leeson and Bethlehem Redevelopment Authority Executive Director John Rohal, I was the 3rd member of the City’s negotiating team to deal with Bethlehem Steel representatives to bring about Tax Increment Financing (TIF) at the site that comprised what was then known as Beth Works. It roughly encompassed the area from the Fahy Bridge to the property that is now Lehigh Heavy Forge just east of the casino. It was looked at to be a financing mechanism for providing public funding to support the construction of public infrastructure for new development on a portion of what at that time was the largest brownfield site in the United States.

What is TIF? It is the set aside of real estate taxes collected on new development within a defined area. The taxes being collected on the unimproved property continue to be paid to the taxing entities, in this case the Bethlehem Area School District, City of Bethlehem, and County of Northampton. Once development takes place the property is reassessed to include those improvements. So, if an acre building site is assessed before any improvements at $500,000 and reassessed after improvements at $2.5 million, the real estate taxes on the $2 million increase would be diverted into a TIF account and not be paid to the taxing entities.

Public meetings were held, and all three taxing entities bought into the idea of diverting tax proceeds into a fund reserved for making public improvements to support new for-profit development.

As those funds accumulate they can then be used to pay off bonds that are floated to fund public improvements such as streets, public utilities, parking lots/garages, etc. The TIF in Bethlehem was structured for a 20-year term, which if my memory serves me was the term limit in 1999 when we negotiated this deal with Bethlehem Steel. The aforementioned public improvements were the kinds of public improvements envisioned back then to be built and funded with TIF. Of course, Bethlehem Steel went bankrupt and development concepts evolved, so different kinds of “public improvements” were made.

The singular project that made TIF viable was the casino development and the roughly $4 million in annual real estate tax increases that were then going into the TIF account. This allowed the Redevelopment Authority to float bonds for a variety of initiatives that include the Hoover Mason Trestle, Stock House, parking lots, public areas of SteelStacks, and the South Bethlehem Greenway. TIF money also went into other questionable uses as well, such as the private 510 Flats project ($800,000) across from the NCC Fowler Center and funding the South Side Ambassadors Program, and reimbursing ArtsQuest for staff time to unlock/lock the Hoover Mason Trestle access gates.

As with many government initiatives good intentions can often lead to unintended consequences, and TIF ended up being used in ways that some would question, including me as an original negotiator. Politics and the desire to feed at the public trough tended to trump intentions.

Although I’ve been informed that it is possible to extend the TIF term so that additional improvements could be made, I do not believe that the political will exists with any of the three taxing entities to do that. Increasing needs in individual budgets do not make it attractive to forgo tax revenue beyond the original 20-year term.

I hope this makes it more understandable.

Dana

So Professor Dana or others: let me see if I understand. Let’s see if I can put this in my own words.

Under the TIF, the property owner (the Sands) paid taxes as usual on their now developed and more valuable property, but the amount of the tax increase solely attributed to development went not to the taxing agencies but into a fund solely directed at improving their property. The taxing agencies’ revenues from the property stayed the same (in that sense, they didn’t “lose” money), but they agreed to take a hit on increased taxes from the increased value of the redeveloped property, and, in effect, the property owner saved some money on improvements. The taxes on the increased value of the property flowed back in to the property owner enabling it to do more improvement.

So is it true to say that the end of the TIF is a loss to Wind Creek? That they are the ones to lose the benefit? So is it true to say that the end of the TIF is a gain for the City (and the other taxing agencies)? If so, that sounds ok to me. But it sounds to me that you see “us” losing a benefit when the TIF ends and that you would like to see the TIF continue — can you explain that further? Does Wind Creek need the “help” of the TIF? Are there things on that property that won’t get done without the TIF? I think I’m still missing something here.

Gadfly still needs your help.

Wind Creek is winding up

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Cranky ol’ Gadfly must admit that turning the property into the “No. 1 resort destination in the Northeast” still freezes his bowels.

The financial ramifications for the City in general are always a mystery to a guy like the Gadfly. Does anyone want to comment on that? Can anyone explain in layman terms what the TIF is and what significance it is that it is ending?

Wind creek 3

Nicole Radzievich and Jon Harris, “Wind Creek Bethlehem promises spa, bar and ballroom in future hotel.” Morning Call, December 5, 2019.

Following through on its promise, Wind Creek Hospitality is pitching a 12-story hotel that would include a spa, bar, ballroom and more meeting space at the south Bethlehem casino it bought this year, under plans filed with the city.

The $90 million hotel would be built near the existing 282-room one and wrap around the Wind Creek Event Center. It would include 270 guest rooms on the upper floors. The ground floor would include the ballroom, meeting space, business center, banquet kitchen and bar. Renderings of the second floor show a pool and patio tables that spill out onto a deck.

“We will work closely with Wind Creek to move this project forward,” Mayor Robert Donchez said. Donchez lauded the investment in the property and people it will bring to the city. He said the amount of meeting space — an additional 36,000 square feet — will provide flexibility for the city to land larger conferences. And the additional real estate taxes the new construction will generate will immediately help the city’s bottom line. In past years, county, city and school district tax revenue generated from improvements there went into a special taxing fund — the Tax Increment Financing — to pay for infrastructure improvements at the former Bethlehem Steel land. The TIF expires next year.

The hotel is part of Wind Creek’s plan to turn the property — in the words of Wind Creek President and CEO Jay Dorris — into the “No. 1 resort destination in the Northeast.”

Wind Creek immediately undertook a $15 million facility rebrand and held a grand opening in October. The hotel and meeting space expansion was to be the next part of the plan. The expansion of the hotel has been described as a no-brainer, because the existing 282-room hotel boasts a 93% occupancy rate that forces Wind Creek Bethlehem to turn away visitors up to four nights a week. Demand for meeting space exceeds the facility’s current capacity.

More fluid, and more of a head-scratcher regarding how it will be pulled off, is a $250 million plan to turn the crumbling No. 2 Machine Shop into a 300,000-square-foot adventure and water park that also would include a roughly 400-room hotel. At the grand opening, Arthur Mothershed, Wind Creek’s vice president of business development, said the company was at least eight months away from getting the design of that project to the point where a groundbreaking could be scheduled.

The hotel expansion, and especially the Machine Shop project, is meant to strengthen the Bethlehem resort, which already gets 9 million visits a year as the closest casino to New York City with table games. But more competition looms on the horizon, most notably if New York officials in the years ahead move forward with Las Vegas-style casino gambling in its population-rich downstate. That could take a significant chunk of Wind Creek Bethlehem’s robust busing program from New York City and northern New Jersey, meaning Wind Creek must diversify its offerings to stick out in the crowd.

Along those lines, the hotel expansion is expected to unlock revenue and earnings potential by growing lodging, meeting space and food-and-beverage offerings. The Machine Shop redevelopment, meanwhile, could boost the resort’s offerings, with rock climbing, rope courses and ziplines, and bring an estimated 1.4 million new site visits a year.

“I’m on the same limb”

logoLatest post in a series about Wind Creek Casinologo

ref: “Wind Creek will be focused on becoming good neighbors in Bethlehem”

Gadfly,

Please move over, I’m on the same limb, and I am sure there will be others. What difference it will make is a guess, but you’ve articulated my emotional and rational thoughts on point.

Deni Thurman-Eyer

Gadfly is reminded of the Emily Dickinson lines:

I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you—Nobody—Too?
Then there’s a pair of us!
Don’t tell! they’d advertise—you know!

“Wind Creek will be focused on becoming good neighbors in Bethlehem”

logoLatest post in a series about Wind Creek Casinologo

Jon Harris, “At grand opening, Wind Creek pledges to reinvest in Bethlehem property. In fact, hotel construction could start in early 2020.” Morning Call, October 10, 2019.

Keeping an eye on Wind Creek. Holding my breath a bit.

Especially this week with the Touchstone Festival, Gadfly has been thinking a lot about Bethlehem’s nature, culture, history, heritage, personality, identity, character — and future.

He doesn’t see a third-of-a-mile-long adventure and water park — once described by Wind Creek something like the “premier destination in the Northeast” — in that future.

Or should he say he doesn’t want to see it in Bethlehem’s future, because it looks like a sure thing.

Wind Creek seems determined.

Looks like it will be here.

Gadfly’s resistance to that reality is visceral not intellectual, not logical.

A waterpark in the No. 2 Machine Shop? Feels like dancing on a grave.

In a way his repulsion is beneath explanation, his own explanation.

And he hears no one else expressing anxiety.

It’s lonely on this limb.

For sure, we don’t want barren brownfields. Given the alternative, we should be glad for the Sands, for Wind Creek. Huge tax money. Lots of Union construction jobs (you are in Gadfly’s head, Councilman Callahan). Visitors pouring dollars into the local economy. 2,360 employees and growing. And Wind Creek throwing money at non-profits. That’s a “good neighbor,” right?

He knows all this.

Why can’t Gadfly be happy? Why so conflicted, so cranky?

Makes no sense.

Gadfly wasn’t Gadfly when we were going through the Sands pregnancy.

He was bothered, but only out of the corner of his eye. He didn’t feel involved.

Now as a toddler-Gadfly he feels involved.

Granted, he’s come to accommodation with the casino. In fact, it’s virtually invisible to him. He’s barely aware of it. It’s not in his world. We don’t bother each other. We co-exist. We live in separate spheres. Alternate realities.

Perhaps the same thing will happen with the hotels and water park.

But it feels like on a mega-scale what he sees too often in front of our City committees on building-scale — an “outside” developer plunking in something for his gain that does not fit our grain.

When Gadfly came to Bethlehem 50 years ago, he was proud that it was known as the home of moral might and technological might.

Strange combination but serious stuff.

And now we might be advertised to the world for a waterpark that is the premier destination in the Northeast.

A playground.

Doesn’t compute.

Gadfly waits for the slap upside the head.

Help him.

Talk him down.

Stage an intervention.

It’s lonely on this limb.

—–

Jon Harris, “At grand opening, Wind Creek pledges to reinvest in Bethlehem property. In fact, hotel construction could start in early 2020.” Morning Call, October 10, 2019.

  • [Wind Creek’s] to-do list . . . includes a proposal to transform the No. 2 Machine Shop via a $250 million infusion and a $90 million plan to build another hotel, with potential for a groundbreaking on the hotel early next year.
  • Those plans have Wind Creek and local officials excited about the 10-year-old property’s future — and they said as much during a grand-opening ceremony on Thursday just outside the casino’s main entrance.
  • “Bethlehem is the jewel of the Lehigh Valley and as Wind Creek thrives, we’ll continue to shine,” state Sen. Lisa Boscola said, adding that she believes the crucial property, built upon what was once the country’s largest brownfield, is in good hands with Wind Creek.
  • Boscola, State Sen. Pat Browne and Bethlehem Mayor Robert Donchez also reflected on the past, back 15 years ago when it was far from a sure thing that Bethlehem would even allow casino development. Donchez was then a councilman, actually casting the deciding vote to allow the project in the city.
  • “There’s no question in my mind that was the right vote,” Donchez said.
  • But Thursday was more about the future, something ushered in with a tribal dance and song, fireworks, appearances by Emeril Lagasse and Buddy Valastro and a charity-giving contest. In the contest, in which 10 area nonprofits were pre-selected and then the public voted to decide the winner, Wind Creek Executive Vice President and General Manager Brian Carr announced Via of the Lehigh Valley as the winner of $25,000. He then announced Wind Creek had decided to give the remaining nine nonprofits a prize of $10,000 each.
  • Tribal Chair Stephanie Bryan said the tribe and Wind Creek will be focused on becoming good neighbors in Bethlehem, planning to build on the legacy Las Vegas Sands Corp. left in the city and to create additional job opportunities beyond the property’s current employment of about 2,360.
  • Arthur Mothershed, Wind Creek’s vice president of business development, said plans are moving along for a 276-room hotel and another 42,000 square feet of meeting space near the existing 282-room hotel. He said Wind Creek believes it can break ground on the hotel shortly after Jan. 1, a project that will take about 14 months to complete.
  • More fluid is the plan to turn the No. 2 Machine Shop, which is a third of a mile long, into a 300,000-square-foot adventure and water park that also would include a roughly 400-room hotel. Mothershed said that, conservatively, Wind Creek is probably eight months away from getting the design to the point where it can think about a groundbreaking.

Non-profits vie for Wind Creek $$,$$$

Festival UnBound
Ten days of original theatre, dance, music, art and conversation designed to celebrate and imagine our future together!
October 4-13

(Latest posts in a series about Wind Creek Casino)

I may be wrong, but, if you wait a day in-between, it looks like you can vote more than once . . .

Jessica Johnson, “Vote now to pick which local nonprofit gets $25,000 in Wind Creek Bethlehem contest.” Morning Call, September 23, 2019.

Wind Creek Bethlehem is giving $25,000 to a local nonprofit organization as part of its grand opening ceremonies in October. The recipient will be chosen by a public vote today through Sept. 30, according to a news release from Wind Creek.The 10 organizations were picked based on previous partnerships and community relationships built over the last decade. They are:

ArtsQuest

Hispanic Center Lehigh Valley

Hogar Crea – Women’s Center

Junior League of the Lehigh Valley

St. Luke’s University Health Network

The Foundation For The Bethlehem Area School District

Turning Point Lehigh Valley

Via of the Lehigh Valley

Victory House of Lehigh Valley

YWCA Bethlehem

These local organizations were asked to submit a 30- to 60-second video showcasing their organization, who they are, what they do and how they would spend the money. Each video was posted in random order on Wind Creek Bethlehem’s official Facebook page Sept. 13-22.

The winner will be announced Oct. 10 during Wind Creek Bethlehem’s grand opening ceremonies.

To learn more, go to www.windcreekbethlehem.com/about-us/Giving-Back.html, or go to bit.ly/WCBCharityContest to view all the submissions and vote.

Wind Creek Bethlehem actively builds mutually beneficial partnerships with service organizations, non-profits, educational organizations, and similar groups within our service areas. We will consider ongoing funding as well as requests for projects and events that address people, community, and the earth in the community that we call home.

Festival UnBound

Only a mild wind from the Wind Creek sale

(Latest posts in a series about Wind Creek Casino and the budget)

We knew it was coming. The City once projected a windfall of $5-6m from the sale of the Sands to Wind Creek. But wise Gadfly followers were quick to say that the sale would be structured in such a way to favor Wind Creek. And so it turned out. The City realized but $317,000.

But the projected windfall was not factored into the 2019 budget except in a kind of “wish list.” And on Tuesday Council moved to begin the approval to do some tidying of the budget now that the sale is complete.

Key thing for us to know is that “Since 2013, Bethlehem’s dug itself out of deficit spending, built its cash reserves and earned an A+ bond rating, [City Business Manager Eric] Evans noted. The city currently has more than the 15 percent S&P wants to see in savings.”

In other words, the City is in pretty good shape financially. Tip o’ the hat!

Many Gadfly followers were hoping for more of a kick for such projects as the pedestrian bridge and the Rose Garden from the Casino Transfer Tax, but “The city found grants and other funding sources for projects like improvements to the Rose Garden, a pedestrian bridge study and security upgrades to City Hall.”

Gadfly is always curious about financial manipulations. Here’s how the deal was structured in Wind Creek’s favor. Sigh.

“The difference between the city’s initial projections of as much as $6.5 million and the actual transfer tax of just over $300,000, boiled down to how the casino deal was structured. It allowed for only the value of the underlying land to be computed in the transfer tax calculation. To enable Las Vegas Sands Corp. to sell 100% of the Sands Bethlehem’s operations to Wind Creek, the minority owners, BethWorks Now LLC, had their stake in the facility transferred into a ground lease. Wind Creek, which owns the structures and improvements on the site, entered into a lease with the ground landlords.”

Don’t you wish you had lawyers so good!

Sara K. Satullo, “Without $5.9M casino sale windfall, Bethlehem looks to rainy day fund for $3.9M of projects.” lehighvalleylive.com, September 4, 2019.

Bethlehem officials hoped the sale of the Sands casino would net them a $5.9 million cash windfall to help knock lingering major repairs off the city’s to-do list. But then the casino sale’s complex structuring only left the city with $317,000.

Now, the administration has crafted a plan to still tackle some of the big-ticket items that keep getting kicked down the road by tapping its $15 million rainy day fund and $1.48 million left over from its 911 center consolidation.

On Tuesday evening, Bethlehem City Council’s finance committee heard the pitch to fund $3.98 million of the projects — things like fire trucks and street paving — and then the full council backed the budget transfers on first reading during the regular meeting. Council will vote on the ordinances at its Sept. 17 meeting.

The city typically borrows $5 million every other year to tackle capital repairs, but as costs rise the money doesn’t go as far, said Eric Evans, city business administrator. Some of the projects have lingered on the list since 2007.

Since 2013, Bethlehem’s dug itself out of deficit spending, built its cash reserves and earned an A+ bond rating, Evans noted. The city currently has more than the 15 percent S&P wants to see in savings, so Evans said he feels comfortable tapping the rainy day fund.

The administration wants to get back on a fire department vehicle replacement schedule, make repairs to the Bethlehem Area Public Library columns, fix the floor of the City Hall garage and put in a new Rodgers Street facility for the ground maintenance staff.

There’s some welcome news for downtown residents and merchants: $175,000 for a massive snow blower to clear huge piles of snow. Currently, after narrow roads are plowed of snow the city brings in front-end loaders to put the snow in dump trucks to cart it away. The snowblower will streamline the process, Evans said.

Council identified a Lehigh River pedestrian bridge study and upgrades to West Bethlehem’s Rose Garden as important projects for the potential casino transfer tax.

On Tuesday night, council sought reassurances those projects were still being funded.

The pedestrian bridge study will be grant funded while there’s $105,000 for the Rose Garden — $50,000 from a bond, $50,000 in city recreation fees and $5,000 from the Mount Airy Neighborhood Association, Evans said. There’s a potential $110,000 grant for the Rose Garden as well.

The city plans to postpone spending $200,000 on converting street lights to LED; lighting upgrades on Route 412, $220,000 of drainage work on Fifth Street and $200,000 on an addition to the Easton Avenue firehouse.

Nicole Radzievich, “So, the tax windfall from the Sands casino sale fell short. Here is Bethlehem’s Plan B.” Morning Call, September 4, 2019.

Bethlehem had hoped that a tax windfall from the $1.3 billion sale of the Sands casino would jump-start some long-delayed projects like fire truck replacements and road maintenance.

But now that the real estate transfer tax turned out to be just over $300,000 and not the $6.5 million once projected, Bethlehem Mayor Robert Donchez’s administration on Tuesday released its Plan B.

The plan delays nearly $1.62 million worth of those projects and uses surplus cash to cover nearly $4 million of them. About $2.5 million will come from a surplus the city has accumulated since 2012 and another $1.48 million will come from cash left over from its 911 operations, which consolidated with Northampton County’s operations.

Business Administrator Eric Evans said that by the end of last year, the city had about $15 million in cash, or about 19% of the city’s operating budget, and is expected to finish this year with a modest surplus.

After spending $2.5 million in reserves, the city’s cash on hand is expected to drop to 16% of the operating budget, Evans said. Standard & Poor’s bond rating agency recommends a cash balance of 15% of an operating budget.

Over the next 1½ years, the money is budgeted to go toward two fire trucks, trunking system radios, a snowblower for a front loader, street overlays, a chiller, a garage floor, repairs to the Bethlehem Area Public Library columns and a project at the public works facility on Rodgers Street.

That still leaves about $1.62 million in projects, such as lighting upgrades and more street work, that will be postponed until funding is identified. The city found grants and other funding sources for projects like improvements to the Rose Garden, a pedestrian bridge study and security upgrades to City Hall.

The difference between the city’s initial projections of as much as $6.5 million and the actual transfer tax of just over $300,000, boiled down to how the casino deal was structured. It allowed for only the value of the underlying land to be computed in the transfer tax calculation.

To enable Las Vegas Sands Corp. to sell 100% of the Sands Bethlehem’s operations to Wind Creek, the minority owners, BethWorks Now LLC, had their stake in the facility transferred into a ground lease. Wind Creek, which owns the structures and improvements on the site, entered into a lease with the ground landlords.

Overheard in the check-out line at the hardware store . . .

It didn’t take long for Gadfly’s snarky to come back!

And Clairton has a coke works.

They still make coke?

Yeah.

I didn’t know they still made coke.

Yeah.

That’s somethin’.

We used to have a coke works here.

Yeah?

Yeah.

And now we’re goin’ to have a water park.

Yeah?

Yeah.

Just what every town needs.

Just what every town needs.

——-

Wind Creek has been quoted as saying they see a water park in the old #2 Machine Shop as helping create the “the No. 1 resort destination in the Northeast.”

Irony you could taste flowed at the end of this above fragment of overheard conversation.

Gadfly must admit — despite Anna’s caution — that a huge indoor water park gives him the night sweats.

Gadfly has already shuddered publicly in a daytime post at the image of the Southside as a community of “Stacks, Steeples, and (Water) Slides.”

Can’t they find a use for #2 Machine shop that blends with the town’s history and character?

Or has the presence of the Casino changed everything?

A design that blends.

Gadfly’s been thinking about that verb a lot lately.

Kim Carrell-Smith planted it in his consciousness in a post a while back.

More on blended development soon.

Sands pushes for a casino in New York City (10)

(10th in a series of posts on Wind Creek Bethlehem)

John Marquette is a retired librarian/archivist, author, historian, and a resident of Bethlehem. His current project is focused on the restoration of the interior of the Archibald Johnston Mansion in Housenick Park. 

Gadfly:

Did you see this morning’s paper? When Paterson is successful (not if!), this will be the end of the fifty buses a day to our casino, and a huge drop in revenue.

David Klepper, “Sands brings big hitter to lobby for NYC casino.”

Former New York Gov. David Paterson is joining Las Vegas Sands Corp. to lead the casino and resort developer’s push for a casino in New York City. Voters have already authorized up to three casinos for the nation’s largest city, but state law says they can’t be approved until 2023 at the earliest. Paterson, who is joining Sands as a senior vice president, said there’s no reason to wait, and that lawmakers should lift the moratorium next year. Sands just recently sold its Bethlehem casino. “Is it going to happen in 2023 or 2020? Why not start three years earlier?” he said. “This is really a tremendous opportunity to create jobs in New York.”

What plans does Wind Creek/Poarch Band have in place to really revitalize the Steel property before we lose the NY gamers to a brand name they know and love?

If we didn’t like the amount from the sale of the Sands to Wind Creek, we are not going to be happy with having to depend on visitors from the Lehigh Valley and west Jersey.

John

Fair play across the board needed (9)

(9th in a series of posts on Wind Creek Bethlehem)

Steve Melnick has had a career in economic development for over 35 years in several states, with the last 20 years here in Bethlehem and the Lehigh Valley.

Gadfly:

It seems to me that Mr Callahan is trying to set an very acrimonious tone with Wind Creek. Politically, it would appear that the mayoral race is already underway, and Mr. Callahan is trying to present himself as the advocate for the common man rather than the big corporate donors that have funded his campaigns in the past. It is beyond comprehension to expect Wind Creek to willingly overpay their taxes just to make life easier for city council during their budget negotiations. In an attempt to position himself as the financial watchdog for the city, and in the interest of transparency, I would presume that he chastised the Benner building owners when they did the same thing and asked the city to backstop a $17 million dollar garage for their primary use. I presume that Mr Callahan has also had this discussion with the owners of the Martin Tower site as well as with Jeff Parks and his group over their project. Fair play across the board.

Steve

The Mayor definitely has the right approach (8)

(8th in a series of posts on Wind Creek Bethlehem)

Dana Grubb is a lifelong resident of the City of Bethlehem who worked 27 years for the City of Bethlehem in the department of community and economic development, as sealer of weights and measures, housing rehabilitation finance specialist, grants administrator, acting director of community and economic development, and deputy director of community development.

Gadfly:

Some elected officials really need to put on their big boy pants and stop whining about how little deed transfer tax Bethlehem will receive. Yes, it was even less than I expected after consultation with a few in the business world who have been involved in similar kinds of business transactions, and the Mayor is taking the right approach. It’s a bigger picture issue. After all, the Sands and now Wind Creek Casinos are in business to make money, not lose it. The proposed development by Wind Creek will bring a nice boost to Bethlehem’s tax coffers over time. The TIF will be expired so the benefit will be immediate when construction is completed. Yes, the Mayor definitely has the right approach.

Dana

CM Callahan: “Tell Wind Creek I’m very disappointed” (7)

(7th in a series of posts on Wind Creek Bethlehem)

“The role of a developer is to make money. Harsh but true. They don’t care about anything except the goal of making money.”
Kate McVey

Well, those items on the “wish list” from the Casino Transfer Tax on the City 2019 budget p. 278 — some very dear to the heart of Gadfly followers — ain’t gonna happen. As foretold by follower Dana Grubb a few posts back, the windfall for the City was nowhere near what the City was hoping for and tentatively planning for. Nowhere near. Noooowhere near.

CM Callahan previewed the official bad news at Council on Tuesday. Listen to his tight-lipped tone:

“Tell Wind Creek I’m very disappointed in their start in the City of Bethlehem. It’s their legal right to use loopholes to lower the tax . . . [but] you can tell the representatives from Wind Creek that that’s not a neighborly thing to do. . . . [They said] they wanted to come in here as good community partners . . . I’m very disappointed in what I’m hearing.”

The good thing is the proceeds from the CTT were not built into the City budget. They are “extra.” They are a “windfall.” So in that sense at least, no harm has been done. Just that no extra good is being done either.

Mayor Donchez looks on the good side. The very major development that is the next step in Wind Creek’s plan. That’s what mayors have to do.

Jon Harris and Nicole Radzievich, “A bad beat for Bethlehem: Tax on Sands casino sale far less than dreamed of.” Morning Call, June 5, 2019.

Seeing a price tag of $1.3 billion when the Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem sale was announced in March 2018, Bethlehem’s eyes lit up like a Christmas tree with what it thought could be a realty transfer tax jackpot of up to $13 million — as much as $6.5 million to the city and $6.5 million to Bethlehem Area School District. But it turns out, it appears to have been dealt a bad hand.

They indicate the city and school district are each in line for about $246,580, while the state is slated to collect about $493,160 in transfer tax, according to a review of public documents by The Morning Call. Mayor Robert Donchez said he has not received official word as to what the amount will be but is aware it could fall far short of the $6.5 million his administration once discussed.

While the casino transfer tax wasn’t budgeted, the city planned to spend the money on a list of deferred projects, such as street maintenance and City Hall improvements, that have been on its wish list for a decade.

The difference between the city’s initial projections and the expected transfer tax boils down to how the deal was structured, which allowed for only the value of the underlying land to be computed in the transfer tax calculation. To enable Las Vegas Sands Corp. to sell 100% of Sands Bethlehem’s operations to Wind Creek, the minority owners, Bethworks Now LLC, had their stake in the facility transferred into a ground lease. Wind Creek, which owns the structures and improvements on the site, entered into a lease with the ground landlords, said Arthur Mothershed, Wind Creek’s vice president of business development.

Bethlehem City Councilman Bryan Callahan conveyed his disappointment in the tax total at Tuesday’s City Council meeting. From what he was hearing, Callahan said at the meeting, the city could expect in the ballpark of $150,000 in transfer tax, which he took as a disappointing start to Wind Creek’s tenure in Bethlehem. “To use loopholes in the law, to say you’re leasing property versus owning it, that’s one thing,” he said, looking at the mayor. “But they want to come in here as good community partners. I was hearing great things. I hope the No. 2 Machine Shop goes through, but I’m very disappointed in what I’m hearing, and I hope you could relay that to the officials at Wind Creek.”

“It’s more important to develop that [property] as a destination site, which will bring more jobs and [property] taxes to the city. We can’t lose sight of that.” It’s that type of investment, Donchez said, that will have a longer lasting impact on Bethlehem than the one-time revenue that comes from a transfer tax.

 

“plans for the site are likely to change” (6)

(6th in a series of posts on Wind Creek Bethlehem)

Anna Smith is a life-long Southside resident and Director of the Community Action Development Corporation of Bethlehem, a non-profit dedicated to improving the quality of life in south Bethlehem by fostering economic opportunity, promoting community development, and empowering residents to actively participate in the decision-making process regarding the future of our diverse community

Gadfly:

Feelings on the water park aside, I think having a plan for the Number 2 Machine Shop was seen as important for gaining State and City support for the sale. But as today’s article in The Morning Call mentions, they only have $150 million of the $250 million available to commit to the project. I have a feeling the plans for the site are likely to change before long, now that the sale has been approved. . . . Unless there is someone sitting around with $100 million to invest in partial ownership of an indoor water park . . .

Anna