Advance Redding Contract Halves Rent But Still Better Than Alternatives, City Staff Says

New lease terms will be discussed by the Redding City Council on Tuesday. Terms call for a significant reduction in rent and a ten-year lease. Bethel Church, Redding’s controversial megachurch, started Advance Redding and serves as its anchor tenant for the Civic.

The city may soon renew its lease with Advance Redding, allowing the non-profit started by Bethel Church to continue to operate the Redding Civic Auditorium. A draft of the lease goes to the City Council for review Tuesday.

The proposed Civic lease is significantly less advantageous for the city than the one it would replace. Under the original lease terms set in 2011, the city initially received rent of $144,000 annually which was gradually scheduled to increase to $420,000 annually in 2016 and beyond. That full price was never realized by the city: in 2015 Advance Redding negotiated a reduction to $240,000 in annual rent.

Now new lease terms would reduce that amount by half, to $120,000 a year, and allow that amount to be reduced by half again if Bethel Church, Advance Redding’s anchor tenant, provides notice of intent to end their use of the building. Bethel, which reportedly pays $750,000 in annual rent to Advance Redding, is expected to move their School of Supernatural Ministry to another campus sometime in the next ten years. While the date of that transition is still unknown, once Bethel Church provides notice of intent to vacate, lease details specify, Advance Redding’s payments to the city will be reduced to $60,000 annually. That notice of intent to vacate, and the subsequent reduction in lease payments, may occur up to 12 months before BSSM actually vacates the property. 

Advance Redding’s bid for lower lease costs comes after the non-profit faced heavy revenue losses during COVID shut-downs. The organization is recovering with the help of government loans and grants and is finally up to date on lease payments to the city after receiving a Shuttered Venue Operator Grant. But those losses, combined with slow returns to events and the projected loss of rental income from Bethel Church have led to the proposed lower lease rate, the city says. 

But while the newly renegotiated lease significantly reduces the city’s financial benefit from the partnership, it’s still more favorable than alternatives, a city staff report says. Staff estimate the city would spend $1.4 million per year either to run the Civic itself or to hire a for-profit vendor, if one could be found. And, according to the staff report, even closing the building completely would still cost the city $400,000 annually in maintenance and utility costs.

Advance Redding operates as a non-profit, meaning it exists for for the public’s benefit, not to make money. Tax documents from 2014-2019 indicate Advance Redding either made a small profit or took a small loss during each of those years. But Advance Redding has told the city it needs the significant reduction in rent to allow time to build up programming after COVID and to ensure the accumulation of the capital reserves needed to attract high quality performers, especially once Bethel vacates the property. The city staff report does not justify the lower rent with any specific financial numbers or estimates.

The Community Services Advisory Commission (CSAC) which oversees the Civic lease, reviewed the proposed lease agreement briefly in November. That body unanimously agreed that Advance Redding is still providing a significant benefit to the city by generating tourism revenue and providing rent payments, as well as by continuing to provide a highly valued events venue for city residents. Advance Redding estimates its annual economic benefit to the city at $46 million although the city did not seek to confirm the accuracy of that estimate, Kim Niemer, Redding’s Director of Community Services, says. In 2019, the non-profit reports holding 42 ticketed events, 8 trade shows, 7 banquets, 6 conferences, and a variety of other local events. CSAC is a five-member board appointed by the Redding City Council that provides oversight of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department and contracts for the Redding Civic Auditorium and the Redding Convention and Visitors Bureau. Two of CSAC’s members served on the committee that renegotiated the lease over the past few months. Their vote of support for the lease terms serves as advice for the council which will make an independent decision.

The contract terms indicate that significant upgrades to the Civic building will be required in the coming years and the city will pay the bulk of what has been estimated to be over $4 million in maintenance costs. Dates for facility repairs and upgrade won’t be set until 2025 though to allow decisions to be made on a pending riverfront development proposal.

Advance Redding is considered a “key stakeholder” in a proposed development plan for the Civic grounds by the D&D group, a consortium of developers and non-profits. It’s still unclear whether the city will accept the D&D group’s proposal, and if they do what role Advance Redding might have in the process, but the Council is scheduled to discuss that topic again in a few weeks. Plans to develop the riverfront could complicate Advance Redding’s requested ten-year lease term.

Some community members continue to oppose Advance Redding’s lease of the city’s Civic Auditorium on any terms. The lease has been controversial from the start due to the non-profit’s close association with Bethel Church. The Redding megachurch, which has a large national and international following, is known for teaching supernatural healing as well as a theology known as the “7 Mountains Mandate,” which calls for believers to infiltrate all aspects of society to bring it into alignment with God’s will. Bethel Church actively lobbies against LGBTQ+ rights. Over the last year leaders have been criticized for a variety of concerns including a high-profile false prophecy, a viral video with misogynistic statements, and a statement comparing the COVID vaccine to a symbol of allegiance with evil.

Representatives from the Redding Rodeo Association also recently expressed concerns about Advance Redding’s lease of the Civic property which adjoins the rodeo grounds on the riverfront. During public riverfront development workshops, Rodeo representatives said Advance Redding’s use of the parking lots close to rodeo grounds limit the rodeo’s access to parking. That parking, Rodeo representatives said, is what’s needed to allow for more Rodeo events which would bring in more tourism revenue for the city. The Rodeo Association, which has used riverfront land for more than 7 decades, pays the City $50 annually for the use of the riverfront grounds.

The City Council will discuss the Advance Redding Lease at their council meeting on Tuesday, December 7, beginning at 6 pm.  You can contact the Redding City Council here.

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