The Macon-Bibb County Urban Development Authority signed off Thursday on a pact that could leave the new Tubman African American Museum building in public hands for decades, without the museum repaying a $2.5 million public investment.
Authority members were told that the agreement isn’t binding. In a complex deal, the authority would buy the new Tubman building on Cherry Street for $2.5 million, then lease it back to be run as an actual museum. The money would come through a $190 million special purpose local option sales tax voters will consider Nov. 8.
Under the agreement, the Tubman would get “cultural credits” for operating the museum that counted toward a lease of no more than 25 years. The museum would lease the building for $100 per year, and would be able to buy the Tubman for $1,000 at the end of the lease.
The memorandum of agreement is somewhat close to what officials had said they were negotiating toward, but the Tubman benefits better financially than what was previously described. Macon Mayor Robert Reichert had said earlier this month that the agreement could have the Tubman paying cash toward the $2.5 million in SPLOST funds; no such cash payments are included in the agreement.
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The Tubman could also receive significant amounts of money if the new or old buildings are ever sold.
Under the agreement, the Urban Development Authority would take ownership of the Walnut Street building after the museum operations move to Cherry Street. It would then try to sell that land for redevelopment, and the Tubman would collect one-quarter of the proceeds, or no more than $430,000.
But if the museum moved into the Cherry Street building and then went out of business, the Tubman would get five-sixths of the proceeds from the property’s sale, and would have to agree on a sale price with the authority.
The agreement cleared the Urban Development Authority’s board with little discussion Thursday. Authority member Rudell Richardson abstained from the vote because he is on the Tubman’s board.
Authority Attorney Chix Miller told authority members that the Tubman’s board has indicated it will sign an agreement.
“This is not a binding contract and the Tubman has not signed it yet. ... We don’t know they will sign it until they actually sign it,” Miller said. “This is the third draft. The mayor has urged us to do (this).”
To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251. To contact writer Linda S. Morris, call 744-4223.