The Branson Board of Aldermen yesterday signaled more positive momentum for Los Angeles-based Kuvera Partners’ proposed $51 million Aquarium at the Boardwalk.
After receiving approval from the city’s Tax Increment Financing Commission on Jan. 17, the board last night held a first reading of a bill to award $7 million in public assistance, equating to 13.7 percent of the project cost, according to a news release from Kuvera Partners.
Branson spokeswoman Melody Pettit said the board unanimously approved the first readings of three bills related to TIF financing that will go up for a final vote on Feb. 26.
“If TIF is approved, we’re ready to go,” said Tej Sundher, a partner with the company that also owns the Hollywood Wax Museum Entertainment Center, in the release. “The remaining financing is in place, and we’ve been doing everything possible to break ground for the project right away.”
Through its Branson Entertainment Center - Branson LLC affiliate, Kuvera plans to fund the remainder of the project not covered by the TIF with $15 million of its own equity and $29 million in debt. Officials have said the attraction is not feasible without approval of the TIF.
Officials with Kuvera previously said Saint Paul, Minnesota-based Springsted Inc., the city of Branson’s third-party financial adviser, issued a “but-for determination report” that found there are $9.5 million in eligible TIF expenses for the aquarium project.
Kuvera is planning the aquarium at the former Grand Palace property — located at 2700 W. 76 Country Blvd. on the Branson Strip — it purchased in 2014 for $2.7 million. In the release, company officials said additional development at the site is planned and that the company would not seek additional TIF funding for future phases.
“We are thrilled to be this close to having the opportunity to clean up the Grand Palace property and create an exciting, thriving attraction that aligns with the city’s vision for this key entertainment zone,” Sundher said in the release. “Working with the city of Branson’s staff through this process has been tremendous. We’ve been continually impressed with their thorough approach and open communication with us, leading to a TIF agreement that is a real win-win.”
With design and planning work by St. Louis-based PGAV Destinations, the project calls for a 46,000-square-foot aquarium attraction with a boardwalk theme that takes visitors “under the sea” for views of marine animals. A rendering of the attraction shows a giant octopus facing the 76 Strip.
The latest TIF test in Branson follows the rejection last year of $115.6 million in public funds sought for a proposed $446 million resort called Branson Adventures, according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting.
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