Dornbusch Associates evaluated the financial feasibility of rehabilitating and reusing the vacant historical buildings on the south side of Ellis Island to accommodate a combination of commercial and public functions. The concept was to incorporate an international conference facility with overnight lodging and hospitality services for 250 guests. A non-profit partner, the Ellis Island Institute, was interested in using the facilities for meetings of world leaders and experts in issues that would reflect the history of Ellis Island and the mission of the Institute, namely immigration, world migration, public health, cultural and ethnic diversity, family history, cultural tolerance and global health and wellbeing. The project was funded by the National Park Conservation Association.
Dornbusch determined the physical adaptation requirements and the associated costs of the proposed project, the necessary permits and environmental review requirements, and evaluated the overall financial feasibility and economic sustainability of the project under current and projected market conditions, considering:
- The tourism market in the New York City area, considering the magnitudes, profiles, visitation preferences, and activity patterns of the various demographic groups representing prospective users.
- Regional transportation systems’ access and pricing to judge the degree which available and prospective transportation services would support the facility’s functions and marketability.
- Local and regional conference and hospitality activity, especially existing and planned competitive conference and cultural/educational facilities.
- The projected level and composition of demand likely to be generated for the conference center and programming elements, including relevant socioeconomic characteristics of the primary and secondary markets.
- The possible methods to contract and manage the facility and its operations – including a master lease and sub-leases, management or franchise agreements, public/private partnerships, and service contracts.
Capital costs and annual operating financial pro-formas were derived, with a detailed breakdown of revenues and expenses, for a range of commercial operations and financing options. A financial shortfall was projected for which assistance would be needed in the form of public and/or private capital. Incentives were conceived to yield initial and annual donations which might create an endowment sufficient to support the capital and operating expense deficit. Terms for a commercial lease were recommended recognizing the market conditions.