Correction to This Article
Previous edition misstated the amount of tax breaks the county would provide Live Nation. The tax breaks would total $800,000 over 10 years, or $80,000 a year, not $800,000 annually.

Unrivaled Funding Deal Goes To Council

By Miranda S. Spivack
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 29, 2008

When Montgomery County Council members today examine a plan to bring Live Nation to downtown Silver Spring, they will be considering a deal unlike any the county has made before.

Until now, Montgomery has funded only nonprofit arts and entertainment organizations, usually by constructing their buildings, acting as their landlord, and making grants to keep them afloat. It has not directly subsidized a for-profit enterprise such as Live Nation, a publicly traded entertainment company that had $4.18 billion in revenue in 2007.

Nor have county officials before asked the planning agency to put aside customary oversight of new development and approve part of a project without seeing the whole. The council and the state legislature already have agreed to spend $8 million in public funds to build a music hall for Live Nation to hold rock-style concerts for about 2,000 standing patrons at the Colesville Road venue. The next step is for the council to approve a zoning change, which members will begin debating today.

A council majority appears to have coalesced around the plans, although some still have questions.

The deal requires the county and state to pay to construct the $8 million building. The county would own it and rent it to Live Nation for $7,500 a month. Live Nation would spend about $2 million outfitting the inside of the hall, which they are dubbing Fillmore Silver Spring. Lee Development Group would donate the former J.C. Penney facade and land, worth about $3.5 million.

The Leggett administration estimates the project would provide at least $1 million annually in taxes and additional spillover benefits to local businesses.

To cement the deal, County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) promises to:

· Require the county to absorb most cost overruns or lower Live Nation's rent if the company pays for overruns.

· Loosen county liquor laws to allow Live Nation to serve alcohol and light fare prepared off site, a rarity in Montgomery where liquor licenses and sales are tightly controlled by county government. Only the Strathmore music center, which hosts symphony and dance performances and other concerts, has a similar arrangement.

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