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Friday, March 22 , 2019, 6:54 pm | Fair 59º

 
 
 
 

Lompoc Council Agrees to Move Forward on Space Center Proposal

A 90-day period will begin to hash out the terms of an exclusive negotiating pact with the California Space Center Consortium

Despite what staff called a significantly flawed proposal lacking details about the team proposing to develop a space center in Lompoc, the City Council agreed Tuesday night to move toward entering into exclusive negotiations with the group led by a woman from Poland.

The council voted unanimously to start a 90-day period to hash out the terms of an exclusive negotiating agreement with the California Space Center Consortium led by Eva Blaisdell, who calls herself an entrepreneur responsible for several startups.

She claims to have major corporations in her group, including Bechtel, Sony, Imax, Amazon, Apple and others to help create the hybrid educational facility, amusement park, business park, restaurant and hotel.

The multimillion-dollar space center is proposed for 82 acres of city-owned land near the Allan Hancock College Lompoc Valley Center.

“I think this is a phenomenal recommendation,” Blaisdell said after the unanimous council vote. “Now I can go to Apple and say let’s start those engines.”

Last summer, the city solicited requests for proposal spelling out in detail what they needed to see to confirm the proponent was qualified.

The council’s approval went against staff concerns centered on an incomplete request for qualifications (RFQ). 

Teresa Gallavan, economic development director and assistant city administrator. said a committee determined the lone submission lacked “significant amounts of important information requested to evaluate the applicant and its development team’s ability to develop and finance the concept they proposed.”

She cited more than a dozen ways the request for qualifications was incomplete or missing the “evidence of ability,” requested as part of the process to ensure the project succeeds.

While the consortium submitted an “exciting proposal,” Gallavan said the development is an ambitious and complicated endeavor along with being a complex real estate transaction.

Requiring proof that the team has development and financing expertise before entering the agreement is a “reasonable means” when conveying public land to a private group, Gallavan added.

Blaisdell urged the council to support the project.

“Do not throw away my enthusiasm, commitment, money that was spent to develop it. This is a complex project," she said. "The RFQ was a legitimate proper document, but it is not easy to convey this type of capabilities in the document that is focused on more of a development type of business model.”

She added she needed the exclusive negotiating agreement to return tot the city with the precise data sought in the RFQ.

She cited a study that the center would create 3,000 new jobs in construction, new technology, media, engineering, aerospace and education while having a $3 billion economic impact over 10 years.

Several residents and other members of the team spoke in favor of the project. However, others urged the council to pause, with one speaker saying the lack of financial information looked fishy.

This is at least the fourth attempt to create some type of space-themed development at the site. The Western Spaceport Museum and Science Center failed in the 1990s, despite the involvement of a former mayor and top aerospace workers at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

A state-sanctioned agency, the California Space Authority, led by a former congresswoman and backed by space and military officials throughout California, tried to develop a space center on Air Force property and then at the Lompoc site but later gave up and disbanded.

City officials terminated another effort in 2013 due to concerns that they did not have the financing or development experience for the project. Additionally, the Environmental Education Group had claimed it needed the land to secure investors’ commitments.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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