Aurora Town Square’s fundraising campaign stalls after councilors question naming rights

A fundraising campaign to help offset the cost of the Aurora Town Square project hit a potential snag last week after some Council members raised concerns at the March 1 General Committee meeting over the sale of naming rights. for various parts of the redevelopment.

Fundraising efforts have included approaches to “high net worth” individuals and businesses who may want to contribute to the project, including the potential sale of naming rights to the outdoor space in the heart of Town Square, the bridge connecting the Aurora Public Library to the new addition to the historic Church Street Schoolhouse at the heritage building itself.

According to a report presented to Council by Phil Rose, project manager for Town Square, Council received a closed-door update last July with a “shortlist of potential donors” who could be approached to contribute.

“It was noted that the fundraising goal has been designed in such a way that funds raised can support a variety of opportunities, including but not limited to asset replacement, grant program, facility improvements, public art, operating budget offset and capital costs,” Mr. Pink. “During negotiations with donors, it would be determined how they prefer their funds to be allocated/raised.”

A comprehensive review of all Town Square-related components identified 33 possible naming opportunities “representing over $5 million in possible naming giveaways.” 155 potential donors were also identified through the process, and 103 remain to be approached.

But despite the work done to date, alarm bells have been ringing with a number of Council members who have said they want a little more input into the process, including Councilor Wendy Gaertner who said selling the local school’s naming rights was not what she had in mind for the project.

“Church Street School is the Church Street School and one of our major heritage sites,” said Councilor Gaertner. “I don’t think we should sell the naming rights for this.”

While Robin McDougall, Aurora’s community services manager, said the nature of the site could be preserved with naming rights focused solely on the addition to the building, Councilor Gaertner said she felt the what was for sale, as far as naming rights were concerned, were amenities in the new construction.

“I think it’s just inappropriate what we’re trying to do here,” Councilwoman Gaertner said, adding that she was also uncomfortable with the sale of naming rights for the square’s outdoor component. . “As for the bridge, it’s right in the front and center of our Aurora Town plaza, so it would depend on the size of the lettering and where it was going to be placed on the building. I know we would love to have the money, but on the other hand, I don’t want to sell naming rights that will diminish the identity of Aurora Town Square. I just don’t agree with that at all.

Councilor Rachel Gilliland also raised concerns, who said she would welcome another closed-door discussion of the capital campaign negotiations.

Responding to her questions about how these negotiations were conducted, Ms McDougall told the councilor that the negotiations are being led by consultants hired to run the campaign, Mr Rose in his capacity as project manager, as well as Mayor Tom Mrakas.

Discussions, she said, revolved around what potential owners might be interested in, the threshold for their contributions and what they would like to see in return, such as their name on a piece of equipment or simply a donation.

“Council should have some kind of input to decide what the best course of action would be to move forward and what that revenue money would look like in the best interests of the city and ratepayers,” Councilor Gilliland said. “We leave the door open as to whether we want it to be philanthropic or recurring income. We haven’t really stipulated what those rules of engagement are. I just feel like we never really had that conversation. Maybe I assumed we would have this conversation after we agreed that we wanted to do naming rights. I’m in favor of that, but it’s about understanding what business model we want to adopt and support. If someone wants to come and make a unique contribution that we can’t say no to, I’m not saying I’m against it, but I’m trying [to understand] what we are trying to achieve as a business model. »

Council approved a motion from Councilor Michael Thompson asking staff to report their findings and bring them to Council for approval.

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