Saturday, March 21, 2009

What CC market studies actually revealed

Fifth in a series

Now that reporter Jim Sneddon’s research has established the wasteful and highly questionable expenditures of millions of dollars of Convention Center Authority funds, NewsLanc will now examine the history of the Convention Center Project and report upon the sponsors' disingenuous representations, falsehoods, and connivances over the almost decade long evolution of the project.

Marketing Studies

In sequence, studies were as follows:

1) The LDR Plan – 1998.

2) The Pinnacle Advisory Group study of 1998

3) Ernst and Young Report of 1999.

4) PricewaterhouseCoopers study of 2000.

5) PricewaterhouseCoopes update of 2002. (Subsequently withdrawn.)

6) C. H. Johnson study of 2003.

7) The PKF Feasibility Study of 2006 funded by the County Commissioners and boycotted by the sponsors and the Convention Center Authority.

It is NewsLanc’s contention that the reports were at times concealed, made public at the very last minute prior to pivotal votes, observations ignored or misrepresented, and alarms disregarded by the Convention Center Authority and Sponsors.

LDR Plan of 1998.

It suggests: “Build on the visual impact of the 'New Lancaster Square West' to create an opportunity site on Lancaster Square East for a small, state-of-the-art conference center of approximately 40,000 – 50,000 square feet. Work with the new owners of the Hotel Brunswick to assure the hotel’s linkage with the conference center, and that its redevelopment includes not only interior renovation, but an external, architectural enhancement of the building façade – an entirely new image. All of this will create a major ‘people place’ for Lancaster and establish the city as an important visitor destination.”

Of paramount importance, it recommends a conference center of 40,000 – 50,000 square feet. Instead, the Convention Center consists of 183,917 square feet plus 66,745 square feet of shared space with the adjoining Marriott .

All studies prior to the PKF were predicated on the assumption of a "small to median size" conference center. Later, PricewaterhouseCoopers would withdraw its studies citing the growth in scale of the envisioned project.

Note the location is not the Watt & Shand bulding but rather adjoining the Brunswick Hotel.

Ample space was available in unused and underused portions of the Brunswick, the adjoining vacant theater and empty shops, plus the opportunity to expand the existing public facilities to accomodate a small to medium size conference center. NewsLanc estimates the the Brunswick could have been restored to its orginal splendor and the alterations and additions accomplished for under $40 million dollars, a fraction of the almost $200 million ultimately invested in the Convention Center / Hotel project.

The Pinnacle Advisory Group study of 1998:

This study apparently was withheld from the public, even though the Lancaster Newspapers Inc. and the City of Lancaster reportedly were sponsors and public money helped pay for the study. NewsLanc has filed a "Right To Know" request with the City. We anticipate the report was very negative.

Until the 2006 PKF report (the first true "feasibility" study), reports were predicated upon a small to median size conference center. In 2006, PricewaterhouseCoopers would withdraw its two studies citing as a reason the growth in scale of the envisioned project.

(To be continued)