|By Ryan Frank, The Oregonian, Portland, Ore.
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Sep. 8, 2005 - A prominent Portland real-estate company should get a crack at building a long-planned hotel to attract more visitors to the Oregon Convention Center, a committee announced Wednesday.
The nine-person committee says Ashforth Pacific and its team should start negotiations with the Portland Development Commission on a hotel, with 400 rooms in its first phase, next to the convention center. The recommendation now goes to the development commission, which isn't required to follow the committee's suggestion.
The development commission hopes a hotel at the center would attract larger, out-of-town events that would spur spending at restaurants and shops.
The committee picked Ashforth Pacific and its partner Garfield Traub, a hotel developer from Dallas, Texas, over three other teams. Faulkner USA, which built the recently completed Hilton hotel and convention center in Vancouver, finished second.
The development commission controls the plans because it owns the potential hotel site and would contribute tax money to the project. It has worked over 15 years to attract a hotel with amenities for large conventions.
Ashforth Pacific has proposed a 23-story Westin hotel that would cover two city blocks bordered by Northeast Holladay and Oregon streets and Grand Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
Ashforth owns 20 blocks in the Lloyd District, including the Liberty Centre and 2 million square feet of Class A office space. George Forbes, a member of the evaluation committee, said he liked the Westin hotel brand and the development team's local ties.
"We'll have a developer in a neighborhood where he flourishes," he said.
The stickiest part of the project will be how to pay for it, a debate that is sure to trigger political land mines at City Hall and among Portland's hoteliers. Cities across the country, including Vancouver, have used public money to help build similar projects.
The Ashforth team estimates the hotel would cost $144 million. It recommends the city own the hotel and issue tax-exempt bonds to help pay for it. The bonds would mean a lower overall cost of the project because they would bring lower interest rates than conventional loans. The city would then pay down the debt with money from room rentals.
Any city-issued bonds would require approval from the City Council.
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Copyright (c) 2005, The Oregonian, Portland, Ore.
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