REEF's $700,000 grant from Golden LEAF history

Aug. 16, 2013 @ 06:42 PM

A Henderson downtown development project is now defunded, losing nearly $700,000 from a prior-approved grant that was declined a term extension.

The Golden LEAF Foundation sent notice on this week that a development plan for the Zene Street recreational, educational, entertainment and family center, also known as REEF, did not hold out assurances of success in providing 70 or more full-time jobs if leveraged by the grant funding.

Pam Hester, director of the Henderson Downtown Development Commission, sent word to city leaders Friday, and in response to questions said that the future for REEF is unclear.

“We just received the letter yesterday,” Hester said. “I don’t know what we’re going to do yet.”

She added that the Downtown Development Commission board will gather on Tuesday morning to discuss the REEF project among other items on their meeting agenda.

City Manager Ray Griffin said with the decision to decline the extension, Golden LEAF has terminated the grant. He indicated he has sent word to City Council members and will continue to update them on what downtown development commission members decide about REEF’s future.

“They have not had enough time to get themselves together to decide on what to do,” Griffin said. “This is certainly a disappointment. This was a major source of funding. Now with that off the table, they’re going to have to start from scratch.”

Dan Gerlach, the president of Golden LEAF, wrote a brief letter to Hester letting her know the foundation’s board of directors declined the extension request, thus ending the grant process.

Area leaders promoting REEF gave their best case for continuing the grant during a meeting with Gerlach in May.

Gerlach told the gathering of about 30 government and civic organization leaders his board needed solid evidence of likely results, namely progress toward meeting the overall goal for 70 or more full-time job start-ups because of the Zene Street development.

REEF consultant Cassandra Sparrow, district leader of the charitable development group, Religious, Educational-and-charitable, Development projects, Inc., or RED, said area leaders are committed to a specific plan to get started immediately.

Sparrow said in May that development would total more than $8 million worth of construction employing more than 100 skilled professionals and resulting in a center occupied by tenants employing 70 fulltime and 25 part-time employees.

In the May meeting, phase one was calculated to cost $735,000 to build, servicing five tenants committed to the project and resulting in only a handful of full-time jobs. Gerlach at that time counted up to 16 jobs total, up to six of them actually coming in at phase two, and four other jobs being questionable as to full- or part-time status.

Gerlach said in May that the Golden LEAF funding applied only to phase one, and would be the chief contributor. The downside was it would not actually leverage development except on the hope that momentum would bring more interested partnerships to propel the second phase.

Griffin said RED leaders would also be a part of the discussion on what the future holds for REEF.

The Golden LEAF board met in June as part of their decision on REEF and other grant funding matters.

Contact the writer at mfisher@hendersondispatch.com.