Boardwalks

Final Big Rivers pact includes $3 million for parking

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The Owensboro City Commission took final action last week to bring Big Rivers Electric Corp.’s $10 million corporate headquarters and its 120 employees to downtown Owensboro next year.

And the final piece of the puzzle is going to cost $3 million.

That’s largely because finding enough parking space downtown for big projects like Big Rivers is becoming increasingly difficult.

Nate Pagan, city manager, said the city has been allowing Boardwalk Pipeline Partners’ employees to park on the city-owned property at 700 W. Second St., where Big Rivers’ headquarters will be.

That’s the block just west of Boardwalk’s headquarters.

The city had committed to providing parking for Boardwalk’s employees when the company moved downtown.

Riverfront Brio plans to build a parking structure along with a hotel and apartments one block east of Boardwalk — across from the Owensboro Convention Center.

So, the city is giving Big Rivers $3 million to pay to Riverfront Brio to create space in its planned parking structure for 110 Boardwalk employees.

Bob Berry, Big Rivers president, said his company will provide parking for its own employees and won’t need space in the Riverfront Brio garage.

He said construction should start on the new headquarters as soon as the Kentucky Public Service Commission approves the plan — hopefully later this year.

Mayor Tom Watson said the project has been one of the most complicated he has dealt with downtown.

The city owned the front half of the block that Big Rivers will go in, but had to negotiate a land swap to gain control of the southern half.

That took care of Big Rivers’ parking, he said.

But then, the city had to find parking for Boardwalk’s employees.

By giving $3 million to Big Rivers to transfer to Riverfront Brio for its parking structure, Watson said, Big Rivers will be able to move into downtown and the hotel, apartments and parking structure can be built.

The $3 million expense was not expected in the beginning of the negotiations to bring Big Rivers’ headquarters downtown, he said.

But Watson said he believes it was worth it to get the headquarters, a hotel, apartments and a parking structure downtown.

The parking structure, he said, will not be enclosed like a parking garage.

“There were a lot of moving parts,” Watson said, “I’m just glad it’s over.”

Ed Ray, chief operating officer for Gulfstream Commercial Services, under whose umbrella Riverfront Brio falls, was out of his office on Monday. He said he could provide more information about the parking structure on Tuesday.

Big Rivers is planning a five-story building on the downtown property.

The company announced the move the day before Thanksgiving 2020, saying it would have a $100 million impact on the community — including a $14 million a year payroll.

Watson said then that Big Rivers’ move is the biggest thing for the community since Scott Paper Co. — now Kimberly Clark — announced plans for a $500 million factory near Newman in 1990.

The city is selling Big Rivers the property on Second Street and then refunding the purchase price back to the utility.

The value of the land has been estimated at $2 million.

The city will also give Big Rivers a 50% rebate on its general fund occupational taxes for a period of 10 years.

“This is a big deal,” Watson said at the time. “We’re very lucky we had the opportunity to land this.”

The agreement requires Big Rivers to guarantee it will keep its headquarters in Owensboro for 40 years.

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