One Big Sky Center one step closer to reality for Downtown Billi - KULR8.com | News, Weather & Sports in Billings, Montana

One Big Sky Center one step closer to reality for Downtown Billings

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The Billings City Council voted 6-2 in favor of approving the Pre-Development Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the proposed One Big Sky Center during open session Monday. 

The multi-purpose facility plan includes apartments, shopping, office space, a hotel and more to be added to Downtown Billings. The price tag attached: 165 million dollars.  

City Administrator Tina Volek said financing the center has continued to be a topic of discussion and controversy. The current plan anticipates 27 million dollars from tax increment financing. 

Volek said the plan also anticipates 30 million dollars in EB-5 Visa financing, an exchange in which foreign investors contribute a minimum of $500,000 in exchange for green cards for themselves and their family. 

Monday marked the council's first opportunity to vote in favor of or against the project's pre-development plan.  The open session included more than three hours of residents speaking for and against the center. 

Opposition to the center cited that government should not be involved in financing private projects and development. Others against the One Big Sky Center plan felt the cost for taxpayers outweighed marketability for the center in Billings. 

Supporters of the One Big Sky Center plan cited that adding such a facility would create more jobs and opportunities for people in the Magic City, and help Billings stay competitive with other Montana cities like Missoula and Bozeman that are continuing to develop. 

Billings Mayor Tom Hanel was among testimonies for the project. 

"There is not a time that I did not support the progress of this city," said Hanel during the session, "Billings can afford this, it's the heart of the state, the largest, strongest city for 500 miles...and I would be proud if (One Big Sky Center) succeeds." 

Part of the pre-development agreement reached between the city and MontDevCo LLC requires regular reports on the project's progress. 

The council also addressed the time table for the project, and desire that what's required of the city and the developers not be extended beyond June 30, 2017. 

While Monday's decision approved a pre-development plan for the center,  there is still a lot to discuss regarding the development of the center and its impact on the city and its people. 

Join our conversation about the development of One Big Sky Center on KULR-8 and kulr8.com

More on One Big Sky Center can be found at http://www.onebigskycenter.com/

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