LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Pinnacle's donation of the old Harrah's property has been in the works for more than a year. But the timing comes when the nation is experiencing the strain of the worst recession since the Great Depression.
"It is very generous on the part of Pinnacle to make this donation to the city but I also think we have to go into this with eyes wide open," said Mayor Randy Roach.
Mayor Roach explains the city has six months to sell the property. "If within 6 months we can sell the property at a price we feel is adequate under the terms we feel are acceptable then we go ahead and we sell the property," said Roach.
If they can't find a buyer, Pinnacle will demolish the hotel and parking garage and return the land to the city. But mayor roach says given the current economic fix - it will be hard to develop the property. He also adds the city's sales tax revenue is down 9%.
"I don't want to create a false expectation on part of council or part of the Downtown Development Authority or on part of the community that within a year there's going to be new buildings on this property," said Mayor Roach.
Other conditions do apply to the property: Pinnacle has placed a restriction on any future gaming - including video poker. They also want the exclusive rights to put an advertising billboard on the property - a move that would require the city to make an exception on the current moratorium of new bilboards.
"I would like to know what not only where they would place the billboard but exactly what type of billboard because there is any number of variety of signs you could put up there that could change the appearance of the lakefront too," said Councilman Marshall Simien, Jr.
After weighing all the potential risks and conditions the council unanimously accepted Pinnacle's donation.
Mayor Roach said if they go with the demolition route the council may have the option to keep the parking garage for future use. However, the city is hoping the location on the lakefront and proximity to the future harbor - along with the access to Interstate-10 that a buyer can be found for the property.
Meanwhile, the official handover of the property won't happen for a couple of months until the necessary paperwork is complete.