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Bridge Financing Approved for Tompkins Center for History and Culture Interior Renovations

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Bridge Financing Approved for Tompkins Center for History and Culture Interior Renovations

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

The Legislature, by a vote of 12-1 (Legislator Shawna Black voted no; Legislator Deborah Dawson was excused), authorized a loan of up to $500,000 to the History Center, to enable completion of interior renovations to the Tompkins Center for History and Culture, pending receipt of approved grant and funds pledged through the Center’s capital campaign.  The interest-free bridge loan, to be repaid within three years, is provided to the History Center, as representative of the Center partners, and supplements similar bridge financing provided by The Park Foundation and to be provided by Tompkins Trust Company.  The loan amount will equal that provided by the Trust Company, not to exceed $500,000.

Tompkins County, traditional underwriter of the History Center, in 2017 purchased the historic Tompkins Trust building, located at 106-112 N. Tioga Street in Ithaca, in anticipation of the bank’s relocation to its new headquarters, to house the History Center, along with other co-located non-profits, having financed the acquisition through casino revenue received by the County, including $1.9 million in licensing fees.  Center partners are responsible for all non-code related and structural costs for interior renovations, tenant improvements, and exhibits, with a total cost of just under $3,750,000—$2 million in grant funding committed and a capital campaign of $1,750,000 in progress, including support pledged over a three-year period. 

“This is a loan to help with the interim financing while grants are in process,” said Legislator Rich John who has taken a lead role on behalf of the County to help bring the Tompkins Center for History and Culture to fruition.  “The Center has been very successful in raising grant funds and in its capital campaign.”  The capital campaign is currently at 73% of goal, he reported, with the interim financing allowing completion of the capital campaign.  He reported that, beyond the money coming in from grants and already pledged, the remaining balance of the capital campaign is $255,000-300,000.

Legislator Black said that she is uncomfortable to committing more money to the project, and noted that the County would be the last to be repaid under the arrangement.  Chair Martha Robertson said that, after examining grant and pledge data, she is quite confident that this is not a gift, “just fronting money because this is how this happens,” including for grants from the state that are awarded on a reimbursement basis.

Legislator Anna Kelles noted that in this case money that is paid in rent will be paid into a County building.  “This is a gorgeous building, very creative, and an adaptive reuse,” she said.

This is not the first time the County has had to loan to non-profits to address similar capital cash flow concerns, said Legislator Michael Lane, who chairs both the Legislature’s Government Operations and budget committees.  “It’s a lot of money, but it is our building, it is our Bicentennial project, it’s a great thing for the people of Tompkins County,” he said.