Monday, May 17, 2010

CFM Great Park Feasibility Study

Great Park CFM Feasibility Study Update

Things are finally kicking into high gear for our Fire Museum & Safety Learning Center at the Orange County Great Park. After our January 28th Feasibility Study Presentation to the Great Park Board was continued to a future GP Board meeting, things had been moving a little slow.
Our Feasibility Study needed to be reworked with more emphasis on the phasing of our building to cut down on the 30,000 Sq Ft size and the need for millions in funding. The reworked Feasibility Study will feature a more modest 5,000 to 10,000 Sq. Ft. first phase building that will put our project more in line with today’s weak economy and available funds.
After several months we were concerned over the lack of any rescheduling of our feasibility study meetings and nothing on the GP Board meeting agendas about the funding of our continued feasibility study.
On Thursday, May 7, a meeting was held at the Great Park Corporate offices with the Great Park CEO, Deputy CEO and Design Studio.
The discussion started with the subject of our feasibility study being brought up at the April GP Board meeting and went on to say they agree something needs to be done to get our feasibility study finished and presented to the GP Board. They also wanted to make sure we did not head in the wrong direction and get involved in any bad politics or misunderstandings regarding our project with the Great Park. They wanted to assure us they were absolutely on our side and will be making sure our feasibility study would be finished in a timely manner. They explained the delay in finishing up our feasibility study was due to the ending of the contract with the Design Studio and the transitioning of all the feasibility studies, including finishing ours, to the new company, WRNS Studio. WRNS is the company which will be responsible for the construction phase of the Great Park, as well as the existing and future feasibility studies. They wanted to reassure us the delay in no way was because they had lost interest in our project. The transition also required new contracts and realigning the funding to cover the cost of all the feasibility studies and lining up the new team with which studies they would be working on.
They then asked if we had anything to say on the matter of our feasibility study. We told them how hard it was to keep our following interested year after year as we progress through this very lengthy process. We explained how long we had been involved dating back the closing of the base in the late ‘90s and our first attempt with the Orange County Redevelopment Agency, our first presentation to the Great Park Conservancy. We felt there could have been a little more information given to us as to what was going on after the Feasibility Presentation was continued to a future GP Board meeting. The lack of information led us to think there may be other reasons for not continuing our study. Such as, we did not fit the political image or not having the funding needed to finance our high-end project. We also explained how we were waiting for something from the Great Park to show we were accepted as a viable project with space set aside for our building. Something we could give to corporate sponsors or to include in our grant writing.
They assured us they have been working on our feasibility study and have a partial draft in the works on our phasing of the building. They are looking at two or three phases depending on what we feel would work. A suggested 5,000 Sq Ft first phase with a follow-up phase of maybe 10,000, depending how the first phase works out funding-wise. We mentioned we are willing to start out with the 5,000 Sq Ft as long as we are guaranteed the same land space to allow future expansion up to the original 30,000 Sq Ft. We just wanted to make sure we have the space for future expansion, plus space for outside events and exhibits.
We also discussed with them our need for more information regarding fund-raising aspects on Great Park property. IE, if a corporate sponsor wanted to donate $10 million towards our building and in return wanted their name displayed on the outside of the building, much like the corporate world does for the sports stadiums (Staple Center, Honda Center) Their answer to this was they are working with CHORA, the company they hired to come up with funding opportunities for the Great Park. CHORA is putting together guidelines dealing with this very item. They are about 75% complete on the guidelines. There was a lot of discussion on this item as it has come up for many of the other groups and their feasibility studies. It was also suggested we have a meeting with CHORA to discuss our funding possibilities. This may happen next week as CHORA will be in town to meet with the Great Park people. We need more positive input from them so we can further our fund-raising plans. They felt some of the answers we are looking for could come from our meeting with CHORA and the CHORA guidelines once completed.
They wanted to make sure we still put a positive foot forward and not cut back too much because of the feasibility study not being accepted at the January GP Board meeting.
We asked what our next step is after our feasibility study is approved. Do we need to provide a master plan or a proposal for the land and how we plan to raise the funds or what? They said because this is a public project, we need to move forward cautiously and they must be carful what they commit to. They felt we should concentrate on getting our feasibility study approved. With this we will have a better opportunity to move forward and other opportunities will open as a result of our feasibility study being approved by the GP Board.
They also felt that we may have entered into our bid for a place in the Great Park too early in the game. We responded with us being a grass roots organization it was difficult to know when was the right time. So we had followed this project from even before the Great Park was a reality and was under the control of the County.
We did not want to wait and then enter too late as there was a huge interest by many groups from around the county wanting in on the ground floor at the Great Park. We feel our persistence, determination and perseverance has paid off in the long run. Those with a huge endowment can afford to take a different approach and still get in at the last minute.
They did say the time is right now as great things are beginning to happen at the Great Park with the beginning of the construction phase. So much so, many organizations who stepped back in the beginning are now coming back looking to be included in the park.
They look at us as a project they very much want to see become a part of the Great Park and we are in a very good position to make this happen. They see us as one of the groups (fire, police and military) which people look favorable towards, therefore want to make sure these groups are represented in the Great Park.

In closing, they want to set up several meetings with us and WRNS Studio, the new group facilitating the feasibility studies, in the next several weeks to finish up our feasibility study in preparation for the June 17 Great Park Board meeting. They emphasized, the most important item right now is to get this feasibility study completed and approved by the GP Board. Then we can move on to bigger and better things.

Mark your calendar for June 17, 10 AM for our Great Park Board Meeting Presentation at Irvine City Hall.

No comments: