Is this the beginning or the end? Or, is it the beginning of the end?
The city apparently has a month to save the Hotel/Convention Center project. For those who don't remember the "groundbreaking" back in 2010, that was (is?) going to be the centerpiece of the new City of Warren, the commercial engine that would revitalize downtown.
Alas, those shovels of dirt ceremoniously turned by local and state dignitaries - ironically, many of whom also posed in front of the future Allegheny Center for the Arts building when that grant was announced - have been the only visible signs of work on the former manufacturing facility that would be transformed into a venue for meetings, expositions and lucrative good times.
The two lead movers and shakers met in private with the City of Warren's Convention Authority this week. Although the conversation was cloaked from public view, we are told that the authority (an arm of city government) has to come up with a funding source for the convention center by the end of April or $5.6 million in state grant money will be lost along with any hope of salvaging the project.
To say that the Hotel/Convention Center has been plagued with setbacks might be like gilding a river rock.
The only physical work tied to the Convention Center, paid for by GRO-Warren with money borrowed from the ACA Building Project, and subsequently reimbursed from the city's general fund balance, was an electrical upgrade to the surrounding infrastructure. Because of its serpentine funding stream, even that little bit of construction has produced significant controversy.
In the meantime, the almost-weekly announcements of grand plans for other projects, from Black Windows to multi-story educational centers, have disappeared along with the organization that was paid to market them - GRO-Warren.
Prior to the city's marriage to the Hotel/Convention Center project, it had given rights to develop the same property as a hotel to an inn-keeper from the Buffalo area. He had a deadline, and when it passed without progress, the city withdrew its offer.
Now, another deadline looms. With it comes some hope for closure, be it success or failure. We would suggest that, if this deadline passes without a positive outcome, the city should withdraw from its partnership with the current developers, pay off the authority's debt, and think long and hard before its next public-private partnership.