Tuesday, August 08, 2000

More than money needed for tower

By Terry Flynn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Victor Gephart (left), a manager at Turner Construction Co. and Brian D. Connelly of NBBJ Architects reveal the drawing for Newport's Millennium Monument Center.
(Glenn Hartong photo)
| ZOOM |
        NEWPORT — Developers say that the Millennium Tower is once again on a fast track, but it will have to wait on the IRS and the sale of tax-free corporate bonds before the planned 1,015-foot structure can open to the public in 2003.

        The principles in the monument development, including businessman Wayne Carlisle, one of its originators, were optimistic Mondaythat construction would begin next spring on what could be the tallest structure in the Tristate.

        It is to be situated on the same block as the World Peace Bell in downtown Newport.

        The developers unveiled the latest, and reportedly the permanent, plan for the tower at a Monday news conference. They compared its stature and draw to the St. Louis Arch, Seattle's Space Needle and other modern landmarks.

        Three conditions must be met:

        • A new nonprofit, the Millennium Monument Center, must obtain 501C3 status from the Internal Revenue Service. The group is applying for it.

        • The nonprofit must successfully sell tax-free corporate bonds to finance the $85 million project.

        • A park and TANK transit center, at least partly funded with public dollars, must connect the tower to other area attractions.

        When it was first proposed more than three years ago, the tower was to stretch over 1,200 feet above downtown Newport.

        The new plan calls for a single tower with three sections projecting from the center at various heights, anchored at the base by a two-story building. The change in style and construction would lower the cost from $100 million to an estimated $85 million, and it would take about 26 months to build.

        The major challenge is the financing.

        Over the past three years, private financing was not forthcoming because anticipated profits ranged from 3 percent to 8 percent, not very attractive to developers and bankers looking for a better and quicker payoff, said Ray Beil, Millennium Monument Center president.

        But as a nonprofit venture, the center could sell tax-free corporate bonds, thereby boosting returns for investors.

        The tower's construction also depends on the ability of the corporation and the city to agree on creating a park and a planned TANK transit center in the block — which is bordered by Fourth, Monmouth, York and Third streets. This would connect the tower and bell complex to the Newport Aquarium and Newport on the Levee entertainment center on Third Street.

        Features of the proposed tower include:

        • A restaurant and lounge in the larger pod at 585 feet, with an outdoor observation area just above, at 600 feet.

        • A crow's nest observation area, capable of accommodating 160 people, at 800 feet.

        • The podium level — two stories at the base, which would include exhibits, entertainment and operational space totaling about 60,000 square feet.

        Millennium Monument Center officials also would work with Brighton Center, Northern Kentucky's largest service agency, to train people from the Newport area to work at the Monument Center.

        Monument Center officials made a presentation to Newport city commissioners Monday night.


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