Many questions should be answered before Boyle alters Constitution Square arrangement

Published 5:51 am Saturday, January 18, 2020


The Advocate-Messenger

Boyle County officials are right to discuss ways to improve how Constitution Square is managed, given that park’s historic value and enormous potential.

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They are right to be thinking and asking questions about the current lease arrangement with the Economic Development Partnership, which it seems everyone agrees could be improved in one way or another. But they should also be careful not to overthink it and go chasing ideas of premium rents from tenants that are, at this point, purely hypothetical.

It’s true that the EDP and many other organizations intended to benefit the public good are receiving a great deal on their rent for the more than 12,000 square feet they use in Constitution Square’s buildings. But the county government that owns the park is itself a funding member of the EDP, which means they are at least partially giving themselves a great deal on their own property.

Because of the county’s ownership and large stake in the EDP, any suggestion of upping the rent on the EDP, its partners or the Danville/Boyle Arts Commission should be dispatched with quickly. At best, it would be robbing Peter to pay Paul; at worst, it could amount to the siphoning of funds through the rent from the other EDP funders, such as the City of Danville, Centre College, Ephraim McDowell Health and the Boyle County Industrial Foundation.

A more worthwhile path to examine would be whether the county could really reap profits from leasing its Constitution Square facilities to full-price commercial tenants.

It seems like only very specific businesses could be happy in Constitution Square. They would have to be low-traffic businesses that don’t attract a lot of cars, due to the availability of parking. For the same reason, they couldn’t have large numbers of employees. And they would have to be businesses built on image and reputation, making them willing to pay a premium for historic office space inside the park where Kentucky’s first Constitution was drafted.

There certainly are such businesses out there, and some of them may be looking for space in Danville. But we think given how small the pool of potential tenants must be, the county would do well to make absolutely certain they can really lease the space out to someone else before they ask the current tenants to move.

If leasing Constitution Square commercially proves to be a viable and profitable pursuit, there are still more questions to ask.

Are there other good locations available for the current tenants, particularly the EDP and the Convention and Visitors Bureau? The EDP needs an attractive and impressive base of operations to help promote a good image of Boyle County to prospective businesses. The CVB needs a centrally located, easily accessible and attractive location for visitors that come to town.

If there are other locations available, how much would they cost to rent? Will the cost be less than the profit Boyle County expects from full-price leases at Constitution Square?

Would Boyle County help with any added rent costs created by the move? Or will the increased costs be shared across the EDP’s current funders?

These are all questions we are hopeful a planned advisory committee will look into as they examine the situation. The answers they find should provide firmer ground from which Boyle County can make a smart decision for the future of Constitution Square, tourism, economic development and local business.