Seven leading Aberdeen businessman have committed to raising £15m for the City Garden Project if the plans are approved by councillors this week.
Douglas Craig, Tommy Dreelan, Martin Gilbert, Mark Patterson, Stewart Milne, Stewart Spence and Tom Smith have said they will donate cash and work with Aberdeen City Gardens Trust and Wood Family Trust to raise the outstanding amount of private sector money for the capital costs.
The group will also work towards raising a further £15m in endowments to help fund the transformation of Union Terrace Gardens.
Businessman Sir Ian Wood has already committed £50m towards the scheme, which will be considered by councillors on Wednesday. An anonymous £5m pledge has also been made.
Councillors will vote on Wednesday on whether the local authority should pursue a £92m Tax Incremental Financing loan from the Scottish Futures Trust to cover the remaining cost along with four other city centre regeneration projects.
The money would also be used to fund redeveloping St Nicholas House, Aberdeen Art Gallery and the North Denburn Valley as well as the City Circle pedestrian route project.
Stewart Milne said: “There has been much talk and concern about securing the outstanding £15m from private investors but speaking to other business in and around Aberdeen I am confident this will not be an issue but naturally there is a reluctance to come out and support a project which is hanging in the balance.
“Should the initiative go ahead then that is the time that names and pledges will come forward and this group will be instrumental in ensuring the money is pledged.”
Douglas Craig, chairman and managing director of the Craig Group, said: “As a business man who has grown up, studied and prospered here in Aberdeen, I have a responsibility for the next generation and the generation after that to help secure the best possible future for them. I am totally behind the City Garden Project and, if it goes ahead, will be making a substantial financial contribution as well as actively fundraising to reach the overall target.”
Martin Gilbert, chief executive of Aberdeen Asset Management, said: “One of the biggest risks for our economy in anchoring the international energy industry for the long-term is our ability to retain the current workforce and attract new entrants. An attractive and vibrant city centre with greatly enhanced cultural and entertainment facilities that the City Garden proposes will help mitigate this risk.”
Hotelier Stewart Spence added: “There is an element of risk in a project of this scale and, as entrepreneurs, we are all accustomed to taking calculated risks. However, with the public support, a world-class design, an internationally acclaimed team, private sector funding and support and a TIF business case that clearly demonstrates the return on investment and ability to pay back the loan, there is minimal risk.
“The real risk lies in rejecting it and I sincerely hope our councillors think long and hard about the bigger picture for our city and vote, as the public have done, in favour of the project.”
Meanwhile, the Friends of Union Terrace Gardens group, who are opposed to the project, have requested to speak at Wednesday’s meeting.
Chairman Mike Shepherd said: “The builders are in town, money's too tight to mention and you haven’t been given a reliable estimate for that extension you like the look of. What's the advice? Walk away or you will lose your shirt.
“Aberdeen Council’s finances are the RMS Titanic and the City Garden Project is the iceberg on the horizon. It’s time to change course and avoid disaster."