by Sam Hieb
…..I present the proposed downtown Greensboro performing arts center….Citizens and antsy donors are awaiting at the very least a groundbreaking–which the News & Record reports in today’s edition will be April 26. No doubt that date has been set as a reaction to the N&R’s recent reporting on what will be called the Tanger Center for Performing Arts, especially Sunday’s front-pager featuring email exchange between the public faction–which would be Greensboro Coliseum director (and highest-paid city employee) Matt Brown— and the private faction—which would be chief fundraiser Kathy Manning and Community Foundation director Walker Sanders.
The emails aren’t pretty–back and forth on minor details such as placement of a staircase and a sound mixer. But here’s the bigger issue:
The project is what’s known as a “public-private partnership.” The city, the “public” part of the equation, will spend $39.6 million — $10 million from a tax on hotel rooms and $29.6 million from ticket fees and parking revenue.
The “private” end of the partnership, managed by Sanders and Manning, is what sets the process apart. The two have raised more than $38.5 million from private donors, including $7.5 million from Tanger, the outlet center magnate.
The “public-private” process affords the public significantly less oversight than projects built entirely with public money — such as the Greensboro Aquatic Center or UNC-Greensboro’s Kaplan Center for Wellness.
The donors can veto any designs or features that Brown and the design team approves.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the mirror image of this project—one that’s totally funded with private money with minimal oversight from government. Best example? The mixed-use development across Elm Street bankrolled by high-powered developer and million-dollar donor Roy Carroll.
If Carroll’s nervous, he didn’t let on to the Triad Biz Journal–in fact he doubled down on his faith in not only the performing arts center but Say Yes To Education, which has its own issues. That said, it should be noted that Carroll announced his project pretty much as a reaction to the performing arts center, and it’s not insignificant that while the center is still waiting to break ground, Carroll’s project is rapidly progressing.