Central City Development: Why Would a Nonprofit Be a Better Choice?

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December 17, 2012; Source: Charlotte Observer

Partnerships between government, nonprofits and for-profits are very common in development projects. This situation in Charlotte, N.C. is only notable for the fact that the local government’s choice put stewardship ahead of financial gain in the selling of an anchor property. In a decision between a for-profit corporation and the nonprofit Foundation for the Carolinas, the Charlotte City Council opted to go with the foundation to rehab the historic Carolina Theater.

The theater, owned by the city since 1986, is reported to be the most high-profile vacant building in Charlotte in that it was once “the flagship” of the local entertainment scene. The city had tried itself to redevelop the site with a development partner but the project fell through. The foundation intends to turn the theater into a nonprofit hub with performance space and places to host civic meetings. It will also work with a developer to erect a new office tower. The project is seen as a “civic venture,” which may provide a clue as to the city’s decision.

The for-profit that was bidding on the space against the foundation was offering $500,000 as a purchase price but the foundation was awarded the property for $1. Councilor Warren Cooksey said he chose the Foundation for the Carolinas because he was more comfortable with its stewardship. “I want this off the Council’s plate,” Cooksey said. “I feel more comfortable with the foundation.” –Ruth McCambridge