Letterhead: Greater Buffalo Sports & Entertainment Complex, LLC ]
April 29, 2013
Attn: Board of Commissioners
Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority
181 Ellicott St.
Buffalo, NY 14203
On behalf of my company, GBSEC, I would like to inform each member of the NFTA Board about the proposal that is being presented here and to formally ask the authority for a limited term (up to one year), conventional land option on approximately 150 acres of the Outer Harbor parcel. We have submitted a detailed, preliminary Master Site Development Plan with Kimberly Berg, NFTA Executive Director, for your information and perusal. We are prepared to offer, immediately, an appropriate financial security commitment to the NFTA in return for such an “option agreement”.
Together with this letter, you will find enclosures that provide you with more specific information about our development plan, development partners and detailed overview.
For your information, on January 21st, 2012, in a meeting attended by Chairman Sloma, Executive Director Berg and General Counsel David State - as well as a representative of the Empire State Development Agency and John Hutchings and Partho Dutta of HKS, Inc – together with two partners of our company – GBSEC stated that we were prepared to work within the protocols of the NFTA and that we were prepared to offer financial consideration for a land option and, further, that our company is committed to negotiating a beneficial equity percentage participation in the profits of GBSEC for the full tenure of a future lease. In our view, significant preliminary agreement and shared enthusiasm on the desirability of this proposed public-private partnership was established at that first informational meeting. A key element of the appeal of this proposal is the financial return to the NFTA provided for in the limited profit share formula.
Additionally, HKS communicated directly with Commissioner Howard Zemsky, a few weeks later (2012), to ask for an opportunity for HKS to make a more comprehensive presentation on their experience with development of similar NFL based, multi-use venues. For your information, HKS has the most extensive track record in this field and is currently building the new Minnesota Vikings stadium as well as working with the City of Oakland to build a new, multi-sport urban complex. Their last projects, Indianapolis and Dallas, have been exceptional success stories and resulted in securing a Super Bowl for those cities.
With respect to the above referenced points of contact with NFTA executives, however, it our understanding that the full NFTA board was never informed of these communications in a timely or appropriate manner. This is a matter of concern to us, as such behavior, if true, would clearly be outside the bounds of propriety for a public authority – and contrary to the pronounced objective of the NFTA to seek public-private partnership for development of the Outer Harbor.
GBSEC is fully cognizant that the NFTA is interested in disposing of the financial burden presented by the Outer Harbor parcel – which has been abandoned for decades. We are aware that the NFTA has changed its position regarding a public-private partnership model in lieu of a land transfer to the Inner Harbor Corp. Please understand, however, that our proposal, regardless of who the final public steward will be, stands as the only comprehensive plan that secures the multiple objectives of: economic development/job creation, environmental appropriateness on brown field land, creation of a self-financing urban waterfront park with unencumbered public access. Buildings proposed for this site would be the most environmentally advanced in North America; LEED certified, sustainable & environmentally progressive. The large size of the Outer Harbor parcel affords us the opportunity to create a large waterfront park environment and architecturally appealing mixed-use structures. Our goal is to create tens of thousands of jobs – and to create the best public park experience in WNY.
We hope you will carefully review the attached information, as well as viewing the comprehensive Master Site Plan developed by HKS, which has been filed with the office of your Executive Director, also a copy to your Board Chairman. This extensive package of information and documentation is intended to give you a full and accurate understanding of our proposal and business model. It will dispel the inaccurate misrepresentation made by a few irresponsible officials who have mischaracterized our plan as just a football stadium and parking lot that would be an eyesore, with limited use. As you will see, our proposal is based on multiple uses as well as everyday use of this land. Much of the activity will be centered on park space and water recreation. Another major component/co-anchor of our plan will be the opening of the interactive North American Museum of Sports & Culture, to be designed and operated by The Strong’s National Museum of Play in Rochester.
We can afford to create such an exciting and multi-use environment because our finances, unlike those of public authorities, will not be based on public budgets - yet the land lease will guarantee that this property will be publicly owned and accessible and the lease formula will benefit the taxpayer.
Our financing will make this a unique model since the majority of funding will be private investment coming from private cash, equity and debt investment for the first $1 billion (+) of funding. More information on the financing is found in the enclosures, but I will point out that we already have commitments for more than half of this budget from private sources and national union pension fund managers. As you may understand, final financing plans on a development project or real estate deal cannot be completed until a buyer has “rights” to a property. The “security” the NFTA would have in granting a land option here is threefold; first in form of cash payment for land option for limited time, second - that specific performance requirements are met before end of term, and third, that GBSEC return with positive commitment from the NFL.
GBSEC feels there has been unfortunate misrepresentation from a few leaders in our community who are either innocently misinformed – or by others who may have their own individual or special interest agendas. For that reason, I felt it necessary to provide the NFTA Board with a full and accurate file. In addition, we want the Commissioners to understand and acknowledge the significant public support from important public constituencies for this project. There is over-riding support in the Minority community because of job creation opportunity. As well, we have worked closely with local, state and national Building Trades Unions to plan an ambitious minority training job program/Apprenticeship Training, a Veterans component/Helmets to Hardhats, and a PLA that will deliver an estimated $800+ million payroll over seven years of the build-out.
In short, there is no other competing economic development project on the drawing boards in WNY that can offer so much public good potential for this land. We can begin this process with the extension of a no-risk land option for a parcel that has been valueless for so long. As public recognition of this economic development opportunity grows, more and more public bodies and elected officials are calling on the NFTA to take the step of allowing continued due diligence – as soon as possible. Along with many others in WNY, we are wondering, why do some stand in the way of simple action that will allow us to get hard answers, engage the NFL and privately finance an innovative, proven business model?
I look forward to hearing from you and hope that we can work together in a meaningful engagement.
Kristy L Mazurek, CEO
Greater Buffalo Sports & Entertainment Complex, LLC
Cc: Sam Hoyt, Empire State Development Corporation
Robert Gioia, Chairman, Inner Harbor Canal Development Corp.
Hon. Brian Higgins, Member of Congress
Hon. Byron Brown, Mayor
Hon. Mark Poloncarz, County Executive