Confused about the Convention Center Project? With the help of Attorney Gary Fletcher, St. Clair County Administrator Bill Kaufman, Commissioner Jeff Bohm, and Developer John Wheeler, here’s what we know so far:
On October 27, 2011, St. Clair County, the city of Port Huron, Baker College, JB Real Estate Development, and the Twisted Rooster restaurant rolled out a plan to purchase and redevelop the Thomas Edison Inn. JB Real Estate Development will acquire and own the existing hotel and surrounding land. Costs are projected to be $10.3 million. According to Gary Fletcher, counsel for St. Clair County, the private financing has been completed and a closing on that property is scheduled for mid-to-late April. Robert Schermer Jr., CEO of Meritage, will lease the existing restaurant space in the Thomas Edison Inn, remodeling it and converting it to a Twisted Rooster restaurant. A portion of the existing inn, along with some land, will be sold to St. Clair County, who will construct, own and operate a 40,000 square-foot convention center. Another piece of the property will be sold to Baker College who will construct a culinary arts institute, costing four million dollars. Student housing is part of the long-range plan for an additional $4.5 million. The city of Port Huron has given assurances to provide $50,000 (MDOT Mitigation Funds) a year for eight years to the convention center, as well as about $85,000 a year from property taxes collected (TIFA funds), to help with the operation of the convention center. The Blue Water Tourism has promised to give the county 1% of the 5% they receive of the hotel/motel tax they collect, to help with operation of the convention center which is estimated to be about $125,000 a year. A portion of the restaurant receipts will be paid to the county to help cover the operating costs of the convention center. The St. Clair County Board of Commissioners has approved in principle to selling $9 million in bonds, although the bonds have yet to be sold. The county has hired the consulting firm of Convention, Sports & Leisure, CSL to help structure the agreements between the various parties participating in this project. A special meeting is scheduled for Thursday, March 29, to look at a public development agreement that will spell out the details of this public/private venture. No start dates for construction have been set.