Welcome to our live chat with Hani Shafai, president or Dream Design International.
Given the current economic conditions, why do you think Presidents Plaza will be successful?
Our regional economy has been almost sheltered from the economic conditions experienced in other parts of the country. Our community has not seen the sharp increase of overbuilding as otherplaces. This project has been in the works for so many years and it has a huge interest from so many potential tenants.
Thanks, Hani. Presidents Plaza is a derivation of the 2007 Rushmont proposal that you eventually abandoned. What has changed for you to return with a new plan for Sixth and St. Joseph?
The political atmosphere, the economic outlook, and the support of the community.
The TIF district expires on May 7, 2012. How confident are you that you and your partner, Pat Hall, can get everything in place within six months?
It will be a sprint to the finish line. We will give it all we got.
The people who opposed the expansion of the TIF funding at the council’s Nov. 7 meeting argued that there isn’t enough time for you to make the deadline. What assurances can you give that your proposal is on track?
The TIF is only one component of the project. The project is not the TIFbut it has many other important aspects. Most who opposed the project were parties that would like to be part of the project. We are working with the city, banks, and the tenants to keep on track. Cooperation from all involved will be needed to make that date.
The TIF district deadline involves only the public improvements. Does this mean that the first part that will be built is the public parking garage?
Excellent question. That is correct.
How soon after the construction of the garage is begun can we expect to see shovels in the ground on the retail shops and hotel/condominium?
The retail shops and the garage will be constructed at the same time. The hotel, residential, and offices will follow without any stop in construction. We hope that the groundbreaking will be for the entire project.
The groundbreaking, then, is scheduled for May of next year, if all goes as planned?
We are shooting to have it under contract by early May with groundbreaking shortly after that.
Thanks, Hani. There is a governmental board meeting this week about allocating New Markets Tax Credits for worthy projects, among which is Presidents Plaza. Can you tell us more about the criteria for the tax credit and how important it is for your project to get approval from the board?
The new market tax credits are used in areas with a specific level of economy based on the population income. The credits are used for projects that have an impact on the community. This project was previously included in New Market Tax Credits Allocations. We have to resubmit for the allocations again. The allocations will make it more attractive to the financial institutions to fund the project.
Under the master development agreement, you have until Jan. 31 to prove financing for the project. Does the private financing depend on obtaining New Markets Tax Credits?
The NMTC will impact the level of funding for the project. It may make it a lot harder to secure the financing for the project.
Thanks, Hani. You said earlier that there was a lot of interest in the project from prospective tenants. Do you have any commitments for the retail space in your project, or is this a “if we build it, they will come” proposal?
There is a great interest in the retail portion of the project. We have to to be sellective on the type of tenats within the project. It is not "we build it, and they will come" There is some space left available in the building. We feel confident that it will be committed before groundbreaking.
Without giving away too much details, could you characterize the type of retail clients your project may have?
Currently, all the retailers involved are close to class A retailers. They are new businesses to the downtown. We hope they can complement the existing businesses within the downtown.
Thanks, Hani. The tower in your proposal will be condominiums, a hotel and convention center. Are there any name hotels that are considering your proposal?
We are working on diffrent options for the hotel. We are trying to stay with a local operator. Details for the name will depend on the final operator selection. The new hotel and convention facility will bring a new dimention to the communitie's hospitality industry.
Thanks, Hani. On another subject, the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology recently updated their expansion plans for its campus that includes the area to the west up to East Boulevard. Are you and your company involved with Mines' expansion?
Dream Design Internatioanl, Inc. has donated some time to prepare preliminary concepts for the SDSM&T about three years ago. An outside consultant has prepared a master plan for that area. It will be a great addition to the school and the community. The SDSM&T is need of housing and we respended to a request to provide them with nearly 180 beds located just west of the school.
Hani, is there anything that you would like to add to our discussion of Presidents Plaza before we conclude our live chat?
We are looking forward to making the President's Plaza a great asset for the community. We hope its impact on the community will be realized soon. We also hope to make it a project that we all can be proud of.
Thank you, Hani Shafai, for participating in our live chat this morning.
It has been my pleasure. Thank you for having me.