HUD No. 07-138
September 20, 2007
BERNARDI ANNOUNCES $21 MILLION LOAN GUARANTEE TO DEVELOP PONCE CONVENTION CENTER AND PUBLIC AQUARIUM
Bernardi Stresses Housing Counseling and Financial Literacy at 15th Annual Conference
PONCE, PR - Plans to create a downtown convention district and a new public aquarium are one step closer to reality today with the announcement that the U.S. Department Housing and Urban Development approved a nearly $21 million loan guarantee to the Municipality of Ponce. The federal loan guarantee will provide the Municipality access to private investment to develop a 92,000 square foot convention center and the new Oceanic Center of the Caribbean.
HUD"s Deputy Secretary Roy A. Bernardi and Ponce Mayor Francisco "Ico" Zayas made the announcement during a news conference at the site of the new Ponce Convention Center that is expected to create hundreds of full time jobs, many to be made available for lower-income residents.
"Today, we stand together to announce a new era of redevelopment, commerce and employment here in Ponce," said Bernardi. "The creation of Ponce"s new convention center and public aquarium will stimulate new jobs, generate more tourism and create a better quality of life for residents of this wonderful community."
"These projects, made possible by a HUD-Ponce joint venture, are already bearing fruits. Two hotels, several public works projects, and new housing initiatives are underway," said Zayas. "This powerful investment will help us improve the quality of life of an economically distress area"
The $20,890,000 federal commitment is provided through HUD's Section 108 Loan Guarantee Assistance Program. The Section 108 program enables local governments to borrow money at reduced interest rates to promote economic development, stimulate job growth and improve public facilities. Such public investment is often needed to inspire private contributions, to provide seed money or to simply boost confidence private firms and individuals may need to invest in distressed areas.
Ponce Convention Center
The Municipality of Ponce will use $17.6 million of the loan guarantee assistance announced today to develop a 92,000 square foot convention center located with the former Multeado Estrella Farm near the Ponce campus of the University of Puerto Rico. The convention news center will serve as an anchor for the development of a "Convention District"that will include two new hotels. The project is estimated to create over 220 full-time jobs, and at least 51 percent will made available to low-and-moderate-income residents.
The Oceanographic Center of the Caribbean
The Municipality plans to use $3.3 million of Section 108 funds to construct a two-story public aquarium that will feature a state-of-the-art underground filtration system and saltwater retaining tanks. The Center will provide educational exhibits that represent diverse marine environments from around the world and is expected to attract visitors and school children from all parts of Puerto Rico. The project will be constructed at the La Guancha Recreational Complex and will include an observation tower and boardwalk. In addition, the project will also include 24 small businesses, a restaurant, a children"s park, a recreational plaza, and a multi-use building.
HUD is the nation"s housing agency committed to increasing homeownership, particularly among minorities; creating affordable housing opportunities for low-income Americans; and supporting the homeless, elderly, people with disabilities and people living with AIDS. The Department also promotes economic and community development and enforces the nation's fair housing laws. More information about HUD and its programs is available on the Internet and espanol.hud.gov.