To ensure we fully inform our valued constituents, I am taking this opportunity to explain our intent behind the project, as well as how we view our role in the community.
The city of Lebanon and Cumberland University have successfully partnered for more than 175 years, and we know the Cumberland Corner project is a joint opportunity to enhance and revitalize a blighted area of the city in a way that benefits both partners.
Here are a few of the ways this public-private partnership further strengthens our community and ongoing relationship:
• This project will create a financial return on the city’s investment, as it will bring sustained economic growth through student support of local businesses and associated sales taxes, as well as students purchasing city services such as water, sewer and gas and the $130 annual per capita “shared revenue” payment received from the State of Tennessee. According to the BERC Center at MTSU, our average on campus student spends just under $10,000 per year in the local community. The 250 new ones housed at Cumberland Corner will add about $2.4 million annually to Lebanon business receipts.
• Cumberland Corner will revitalize a deteriorated area of Ward 3, utilizing the property for its highest and best use, increasing the surrounding property values for property owners, and generating additional property tax revenue for the city. We believe a vibrant student community is a much better choice for the city’s prosperity than the lower-income duplex development that is already under discussion for this property should Cumberland be unable to pursue this project.
• While the city will invest $850,000 in the project, Cumberland University will provide the balance of the property’s $1.1 million purchase price, and will assume sole responsibility for the development of the project with an anticipated $15-$20 million dollar investment. Such a large construction project will create an economic swell on a massive scale as labor, materials, equipment rentals and more will be procured, alongside the accompanying sales tax that will be generated. The local jobs created by Cumberland Corner’s construction will be several times the number that any other project on the site will generate.
We have enormous confidence that we will succeed in completing the project and are willing to guarantee its success. Simply stated, if we do not fulfill our development promise within four years, we will return the city’s investment stake in full.
With these mutually beneficial outcomes, we are asking the city to join with us in pursuing this investment opportunity just as it has done year after year with other meaningful endeavors which have served our community well. Annually, the city makes financial disbursements from the general fund –not the “rainy day” fund– to a number of projects, programs and organizations, including the Ward Ag Center, Veterans Museum, and the Senior Citizens’ Center - that enhance the quality of life and economic vitality of our community. The city also frequently obligates itself financially to attract new industry and commercial development. The investment opportunity with Cumberland Corner is no different.
It is indeed an exciting time of growth for the region, our city and Cumberland University; and it is incumbent upon Cumberland University to ensure that we participate in a positive, strategic way that will not only benefit the future of our institution, faculty, staff and students, but the community in which we are neighbors and friends.
I appreciate your willingness to support the Cumberland Corner project and hope that you will make that support known to your friends, as well as to your elected representatives on the city council.
Paul Stumb is the president of Cumberland University, which is located in Lebanon.