Thursday, February 12, 2009

Tower City supporters push back

Forest City executive David LaRue and convention planner Bruce Harris pushed back against MMPI’s choice of the Mall site at the public forum this afternoon.

Harris made the same argument he’s made in the Plain Dealer: that the Tower City site is a better place to put the convention center because of Cleveland’s tough winters. Tower City’s “connectivity” -- connections to hotels and the Rapid line to the airport -- will help Cleveland compete with its cold-weather Midwestern neighbors. Right now, “Indianapolis eats up everybody because of its connectivity,” he said.

Harris asked if MMPI had looked at his survey of convention planners, who said staying indoors was really important to them in choosing a winter convention site. But Chris Kennedy of MMPI was ready for him.

“Let’s look at what Bruce is quoting here,” Kennedy said. He displayed Harris’ survey on screen and attacked it as full of leading questions: “You developed those answers for your own good.”

LaRue said angrily that Forest City had had no chance to make a counter-proposal based on the project’s new “scope.” He claimed the company could get close to the Mall site price of $425 million. MMPI execs seemed skeptical; almost all the Tower City price estimates have been above $500 million.

“I don’t think it’s our obligation to knock on your door,” Kennedy replied. “If (you had a plan to) save $125 million for city of Cleveland, you should have spoken up earlier. But we will be open to a better solution at any time until the first shovel is in the ground.”

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