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OLYMPIA-The Olympia City Council next month will choose between five development proposals that include a publicly-owned conference center it hopes to finance with a sales tax rebate from the state.

Four of the proposals — by Landmark Organization of Austin, VIP International Corp. of Wilsonville, Ore., and Opus Northwest of Bellevue, Wash. and M.A. Mortenson of Minneapolis, Minn.–generally include a 10,000-sf main hall and break-out rooms totaling 5,000 sf and a plan for adding nearby hotel rooms. They are proposed for three different parcels, however, and two of the proposals–by Opus and M.A. Mortensen–also include plans for privately developing complementary projects on contiguous land.

The fifth proposal, by the Kalakala Foundation, would put the conference center in a decommissioned art deco ferry that is its namesake. The ferry, which is 276 feet long and 55 feet wide and encompasses about 25,000 sf of space, would be permanently docked on the waterfront at Percival Landing, which is within walking distance of 200 existing hotel rooms.

M.A. Mortenson’s proposal, in addition to the conference center, includes a 3,500-seat covered stadium with a minor league franchise, as well as some office and retail space. Opus’ proposal extras include an ice arena, a 12-plex cinema and the potential for a new Downtown library.

Both Mortenson’s would build their projects on a 17-acre site owned by the Port of Olympia. VIP’s proposal calls for the conference center on a one-acre lot adjacent the Phoenix Inn it owns in town. Landmark’s proposal is for a 3.7-acre portion of the 17-acre Port site that previously has been slated for a conference center.

Steve Friddle, principal planner with the City of Olympia, tells GlobeSt.com that funding for construction of the conference center would be covered by a sales tax rebate from the state for new public facilities. To meet the deadline to take advantage of the offer, construction must commence before Jan. 2004.

The city’s sales tax rebate, .0033% of what it turns over to the state, would cover debt service on a $6-million facility. However, if the city can enroll the adjacent cities of Lacey and Tumwater and Thurston County, the rebate would support a $12-million project, though Lacey would want some of that for a 110-acre sports complex it is proposing.

Friddle says the city council will decide Nov. 4 which one of five conference center proposals will be presented to a public facilities district board. That board will recommend a final project to Thurston County and the cities of Olympia, Tumwater and Lacey.

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