Failed Developer Promises?

This article was published in the Annapolis Capital on September 25, 2006. The City Council approved an MOU to have Parks build a parking garage on the Annapolis City Playground.

Cityscape: Park Place arts center nonprofit falls short of expectations

About five years ago, developer Jerome J. Parks announced with much fanfare and hoopla that he was going to build a huge new complex on West Street called Park Place.

According to news stories in The Capital at the time, it would have a mix of sophisticated shops, apartments, condos, a hotel and, most impressive of all, a top-notch performing arts center.

The local arts community, cautious at first, eventually became quite pleased with the idea. It generated goodwill for Mr. Parks with the city, which helped him along with zoning decisions and a special $25 million bond issue to fund part of the parking garage.

Now, as anyone driving on West Street can see, Park Place is nearing completion. The shops and condos will be up and running, but as yet there is no sign of a performing arts center.

It was precisely this point that was addressed in a recent story in The Capital.

With much less fanfare and hoopla, Mr. Parks announced that he is setting up a nonprofit organization to build and operate the promised 1,200-seat center.

The catch, though, is that Mr. Parks won’t be paying for it – the new nonprofit will have to raise the money itself. It will end up costing tens of millions of dollars, far more than local arts groups have ever raised before.

What happened here?

It’s hard to say for sure. Although Mr. Parks apparently made no firm promises to build the arts center, he certainly allowed the community to believe he would.

Over the past several years he has never stepped forward to correct the impression given by those first news stories that he was going to bankroll the center from Park Place profits.

True, Mr. Parks is donating the land for the center and some seed money for his nonprofit, and that is good as far as it goes. But the burden of fund-raising – which could go as high as $40 million – for the center itself will be on the already strapped local arts community.

This just isn’t fair. Mr. Parks got favorable attention and substantial funding for his project at least partially because he included the enticement of a new performing arts center in the package.

Now he is passing responsibility for its completion to others just as he is getting ready to cut the ribbon on Park Place and make some serious money on his investment.

If Mr. Parks wants to deliver on even a portion of his implied promise to the arts community, he might think about taking some of that money and becoming the largest single contributor to his fledgling nonprofit organization.

The full text of the article is available in the newspaper’s archives.

 

 

 

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