What an interesting moment of time Americans are experiencing today in the government marketplace. The abundance of available funding is so new, some public officials are hesitant to spend it. But, in other jurisdictions, innovation is rampant and visionary leaders are launching large projects with abandon. Water resources, citizen services, cleaner air, increased public safety, and economic development – these are just some of the resulting benefits.
Public-private partnerships (P3s) are breathing new life into outdated facilities and unused public land. Rural areas are getting broadband, and government officials are leading initiatives that focus on sustainability, technology modernization, and quality of life issues. But, P3 engagements also are harnessing resources and expertise from both sectors to deliver future revenue generating options for public entities.
In New Hampshire, city leaders in Dover hope to harness the benefits of a P3 model by constructing a new sports complex designed for public use. It will be leased out for competitions of various types. The Dover Sports Complex Committee recently issued a request for information (RFI) for private-sector partners capable of helping the city deliver the new recreational facility that will benefit citizens, attract visitors, and generate significant revenue over the next decade or two. Construction will coincide with the city’s Cocheco River Waterfront development project by locating the recreational facility nearby. The plan is for a private-sector firm to construct, own, and operate the new venue on leased land from the city. The RFI is pending until the end of April.
Another somewhat similar P3 project in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, will deliver a professional sports franchise to the region. While still reeling from the recent departure of Pawtucket’s longstanding minor league baseball team, plans for the construction of a new soccer stadium have been announced. A development firm will be selected to build a stadium capable of hosting a United Soccer League Championship franchise at an estimated cost of $400 million. The stadium will be surrounded by residential units and land for retail establishments. Another $70 million in state and city funding will be available to service the area with improved infrastructure, walking paths, and a pedestrian bridge. The project will be a revenue generator for the city and boost economic vitality in numerous ways.
Local officials in Savannah, Georgia, will use a P3 model to deliver a greater film industry presence in the region. A local planning commission in Tatemville has announced plans to transform an unused plot of city land that once was home to the Coastal Empire Fairgrounds. Public officials will partner with a private development company to optimize the 74-acre property by constructing residential units, sports fields, walking trails, and a commercial build-out capable of supporting the operations of a large film studio. To entice the film industry, a 6.2-acre movie studio with four sound stages will be constructed. It will include space for a 10,000-square-foot “creative exchange center” designed to accommodate film, animation, and gaming industries. The project also includes a residential component consisting of 400 mixed single and multi-family units, retail establishments, and a Savannah Police Department substation. The private-sector partner will be responsible for development of additional construction projects for public use including a 20-acre nature preserve, walking trails, four sports fields, two basketball courts, a 75,000-square-foot recreational facility, and landscaping the area. Savannah officials will contribute to the development by launching street improvements, sidewalk construction, and upgrades to public right of ways that connect to the property.
Many universities are devising unique P3 models for their initiatives. The University of Texas at Austin recently completed a large, basketball and entertainment venue at a cost of $338 million. The university donated land and infrastructure for what will be called the Moody Center. A private-sector firm was selected to handle the construction of the venue, which the university will lease for all its sporting events. The private-sector partner will also be responsible for booking concerts and other types of programs when there are not sports events scheduled.
In Nebraska, Knox County elected officials will oversee a revenue-generating project designed to incentivize private development near existing lake marinas. Construction projects scoped for Lake McConaughy and Lewis & Clark Lake include building additional new marinas with ample space for private enterprises. At a cost of $86 million, the P3 initiative will also include construction of a lodge, event center, and new marina boat slips by a private-sector partner. Another project by the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources will include construction and management of a lake in the eastern part of the state. The ultimate goal is for the county to be involved with a private-sector partner to sell and lease lakefront property to firms. When completed, the P3s will have expanded and monetized the county’s inventory of natural resources.
The city of Tempe, Arizona, is advancing a P3 project with the goal of hosting a professional sports team on city-owned property. In 2021, the City Council announced plans to select a private partner to develop a 46-acre lot near the site of a new arena. A practice facility and large shaded plaza with the capacity to house a partnering sports franchise will be constructed. Plans include development of an adjoining entertainment district, 1,000 residential units; and a 20,000-square-foot area for retail space on city-owned land. The city has captured interest from a National Hockey League franchise with imminent relocation plans.
On the campus of Eastern Michigan University (EMU) in Ypsilanti, P3 projects are providing new student housing facilities. Through partnerships, the university plans to generate $200 million for demolition, renovation, and construction projects over the next three years. The sprawling “Welcome Home 2025” housing initiative includes construction of an apartment-style residence hall that will accommodate 400 beds, a new student center, and additional facilities to support health and wellness of the EMU student body.
While many of these examples highlight a more traditional P3 model, other new ways of structuring a P3 are also proving successful. In Connecticut, grant funding is available to incentivize private-sector investments. An open-ended, economic development grant program is designed to explore and support wider uses of P3 agreements. The grant awards are intended to incentivize private-sector investment in projects that will create more housing, new jobs and economic vitality – thereby making Connecticut attractive to families seeking enrichment and enjoyable lifestyles.
As public-private partnerships achieve results in promoting regional development, providing citizen benefits, and generating revenue, there is no doubt that visionary leaders will continue to expand P3 models in new ways.