Friday, August 22, 2008


When Tom Bonfield (new Durham City Manager) and I got a chance for extended conversation during his first week on the job, we touched on something I’ve mentioned before. I got the impression he agreed and will take it into consideration.

Currently, when local government annually reports the performance of a cultural facility or event, a very narrow definition of cost and revenue is reported. Even though these quality of life facilities were never intended to pay for themselves, it minimized their impact to not show revenue leveraged by more than the revenues generated inside the facility.

When local government invests in a public/private venture like adaptive reuse of the huge American Tobacco Complex, it takes a what appears to be a much better approach and compares not only revenue specific to the three parking decks or the Ballpark or soon the new theater but also the spending and property taxes leveraged by ATC’s increased value and those investments, public and private.

To me, it has makes sense to treat cultural facilities the same way. The sales tax alone generated by visitor spending surrounding use of the Civic Center or Museum of Life or Science or Carolina Theater or Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, is far greater than what is spent just inside the facility or event. Not to mention the increase they spur in surrounding property values.

When DCVB analyzes these facilities, the full impact of the facility on generating tax revenues is applied, not just the revenue generated at the door. We hope we can work with City and County officials to apply a consistent standard.

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