The founders of the first business that will occupy the commercial wrap around the parking garage at College Street and Eighth Avenue may also be the developers of the new building.
Ed, Chris and Clinton Mills, founders and operators of Hitcents, are expected to sign on as subdevelopers of the four-story space that will flank the garage on its Bowling Green Ballpark and Seventh Avenue sides. Hitcents, a website and computer app design, marketing and creative agency, will be the first tenant for the soon-to-be constructed space.
The Bowling Green City Commission is scheduled to vote Tuesday on a subdeveloper agreement that will approve the Mills development of this portion of the wrap.
Hitcents, now owned by Houchens Industries, will occupy a little more than half of the fourth floor of the wrap. Another company will soon announce its intentions to move into the remainder of the fourth floor.
The Mills family is excited to be involved in the project, Hitcents chief executive officer Clinton Mills said.
Hitcents began in the Mills’ home and in 2002 moved into Western Kentucky University’s Innovation and Commercialization Center.
“Western has been great to us, but now it’s just not the most optimal space,” Clinton Mills said. “We’re working on top of each other.”
So Hitcents’ management began looking for a new location and became intrigued with the potential for being downtown. It was during those discussions that the Mills family decided to enter into the development arena.
“This is a long-term potential investment for us,” Clinton Mills said.
Chris Mills said the family’s involvement in the project cements the future of Hitcents in Bowling Green.
“We love Bowling Green, Clinton and I have lived half our lives here,” Hitcents president Chris Mills said. “This is a great place to raise a family.
“But we don’t do a large percentage of our business here,” he said. “We have gotten a lot of exposure in other countries. So we have a lot of other opportunities to go other communities and even countries. But this (project) will lock our company into Bowling Green for at least the next 25 years.”
Chris Mills said Bowling Green will be the home base for Hitcents, which might find itself branching out with satellite offices.
Terms of how much money the Mills will be able to bring to the table are still being worked out.
“We do have to come in with some money, and there are other risks that are involved,” Clinton Mills said.
Those risks will come if the space isn’t fully developed. The city of Bowling Green also has risk involved, in that the lease revenue they are paying for the garage itself will be used to pay off up to $22 million in industrial revenue bonds that will be issued to fund construction of the wrap, according to Doug Gorman, chairman of the Warren County Downtown Economic Development Authority.
In exchange for the city’s lease payment, the public will park for free for up to four hours a day, and for $2 an hour after that. Event parking will still be $5.
A portion of the Tax Increment Financing district money specifically generated by that property also will be used to pay off the bonds for the wrap.
Other revenue streams will be used to pay off the $8 million to $10 million in bonds issued for the parking structure, including a portion of the revenue generated in other areas of the TIF district.
Further details about this financing relationship are expected to be discussed during today’s meeting.
Clinton Mills said many of their clients urged them to locate in places such as New York or California, but they felt rooted in Bowling Green and are happy that the project cements their future here.
TIF revenue can go back into further developing the project or pay back developers and local governments for their investments in the infrastructure of the project for 27 years.
To entice tenants to the building, they will be given a per-square-foot allowance for development of their space. If they go over that allowance, the tenants will have to pay. Gorman said an industry standard for outfitting each type of space is included in the bonding estimates.
“Having the TIF money to be able to do that is what makes this project so attractive,” Clinton Mills said.
Having the project be downtown, within steps of the Bowling Green Ballpark and the Southern Kentucky Performing Arts Center, also makes it attractive, he said.
He foresees Hitcents employees wanting to hang out and collaborate at work longer while they are waiting for after-hours events to start next door.
The space for Hitcents will have multiple conference rooms, huddle spaces for casual conversations and quick meetings, as well as a mini-cafe with game tables to help employees decompress.
The space, at 13,000 square feet, will be nearly double the 7,000 square feet the business currently has.
“We expect this to be a showcase,” Clinton Mills said.
It will be a showcase for other potential tenants of the building as well as for Hitcents clients, some of whom are from across the pond.
Gorman said the commitment of the Mills family and of Hitcents to locate in the space should further the interest in the remainder of the project. Both the second and third floors of the wrap will be intended for Class A office space that is a term referring to the infrastructure available, such as fiber optics. Each of the office floors contains about 23,000 square feet.
The first floor has a little more than 35,000 square feet facing the ballpark, which Gorman said will be restaurant space that they hope to develop all at once, probably with multiple concepts.
As for the College Street portion of the wrap, Gorman said they probably will work with another developer for that portion, which will have retail space on the first floor and residential on the second, third and fourth floors.
“But we really want to get this first section complete before we start working on that,” Gorman said. “We do have someone who is very interested in developing that.”
Gorman said construction of the first phase of the wrap should allow Hitcents to move in by Nov. 1, with the remainder of the space being ready for build outs of future tenants.
Chris Mills said if the city approves the contract on Tuesday, steel will be ordered on Wednesday with construction beginning as soon as possible.
As for the cost of the project, the development authority will only draw down the amount of money needed to pay for the outfitting of leased space and for construction of the shell of any unleased space. Twenty-two million dollars is the maximum, but it will likely be much less than that, Gorman said.