County, city amend tax reinvestment zone
Five years after plans were first announced for The Summit at Rivery Park, developers say they may be ready this summer to announce the name of the hotel developer and management company that will run a hotel and conference center.
The conference center will anchor the mixed-use development planned at Rivery Boulevard and I-35.
“This can truly be a destination conference center, not just to service Georgetown, but all of Williamson County, and bring people here from Travis County and everywhere else,” said Jeff Novak, a principal of Brae Group LTD, the developer of The Summit at Rivery Park.
Williamson County commissioners and the City of Georgetown approved amendments to tax increment financing agreement agreement in May, which is another step in the process to bring the hotel and conference center to the development.
“There’s a lot of work to be done,” said Micki Rundell, chief financial officer for the City of Georgetown. “Right now, the project is moving forward, [but] there are still a lot of other thresholds we have to meet.”
Novak said if additional agreements with the city and developers are approved, the project could break ground in December or January and would take 16 to 18 months to complete.
Preliminary plans call for a four-star or better hotel with more than 200 rooms and a conference center that can seat at least 1,500 people. The hotel and conference center is projected to cost about $52 million, Novak said.
Novak said developers are in negotiations with a hotel group, but they are not yet ready to release the name of the group, and the design is still in the conceptual phase.
Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone
On May 15, Williamson County approved amending a tax increment financing agreement regarding its participation in the Rivery Park Reinvestment Zone, and the City of Georgetown did the same May 22.
In 2007, the city created the Rivery Park Reinvestment Zone, a geographic area of about 32 acres that included The Summit at Rivery Park. The county later entered into the agreement in 2008.
Within this zone, property taxes the city and county collect are capped at what the assessed property value was when the zone became effective in 2008. Taxes collected above that point go into a fund for projects within the boundaries of that zone.
Williamson County committed 80 percent of its property tax increment collected in the zone back into the TIRZ fund, and the city committed all of its tax increment, according to the agreement.
The city’s portion of the fund has about $38,000 in it so far, Rundell said. The life of the TIRZ goes until Dec. 31, 2031.
“The clock started ticking when that agreement was signed,” said Marlene McMichael, a consultant for the developer with McMichael & Company LLC.
The original agreement called for construction on the conference center to be complete by Oct. 1, 2011, but both the city and county approved in May changing the date to Sept. 30, 2015.
The two entities also approved reducing the number of acres in the zone from 32 to 24 acres, removing The Brownstone at The Summit, a residential development that is part of The Summit at Rivery Park that began construction earlier this year.
McMichael said the brownstones were removed because the TIRZ money has to go toward public improvement projects, and there was some question as to whether the brownstones would qualify.
“It made sense to pull [the brownstones] out,” she said. “And it’s beneficial to both the county and the city because the property taxes stay with them.”
Right now the development is structured as a public/private partnership in which the city would own the conference center, if council approves this financing method.
McMichael said the hotel group would pay for the construction of the hotel and conference center, and then the city would buy the conference center back.
Rundell said the city could issue about $10 million in bonds to pay for the conference center, which would be paid back from revenue on the site.
Novak and his brother, Jack, have been involved with the project for several years and are also the developers of The Brownstone at The Summit. In 2012, they became majority owners of Brae Group LTD.
“They have held on to the original vision for the project despite all the setbacks,” McMichael said.
The development is also slated to contain restaurant, retail, medical and office space, Novak said.
Williamson County Precinct 3 Commissioner Valerie Covey said that although design of the conference center is still in the conceptual phase, the county has requested that it be able to seat a minimum of 1,500 people so that large events can be held in the area. The county has also requested to use the facility rent-free to host two three-day events per year.
“We felt like we needed [a conference center] back in 2008, and still feel that we need it today,” she said. “It will be a part of the hotel, and it will be something that will generate economic development and other things here.”