|By Sonu Munshi, The Tribune, Mesa,
Ariz.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Nov. 19, 2008 -- Gaylord Entertainment Co. of Nashville has announced it is nixing plans to develop a resort center in Chula Vista, Calif., similar to one it still has plans for in Mesa.
Mesa Mayor Scott Smith said Tuesday he has been reassured by a company official that "this did not lessen their commitment to Mesa."
"When Geoff Woodward (Gaylord's vice president of development) called us yesterday to tell us about San Diego, he reassured us it would strengthen the Mesa plans," Smith said.
Tuesday's announcement followed protracted negotiations with the city and the Port of San Diego. In a Gaylord news release announcing the termination of its California plans, the reasons stated for the decision were "prolonged planning and approval processes, a complicated regulatory and legal structure, and excessive off-site infrastructure costs."
It further stated that "the decision regarding the Chula Vista project has no bearing on Gaylord's other announced development initiatives."
In a letter to the Chula Vista authorities Monday, Bennett Westbrook, Gaylord's senior vice president, described the project as "complex and challenging," citing "enormous infrastructure costs associated with the bayfront redevelopment" as too much to generate "adequate financial returns for Gaylord, the Port and the City."
The company was dealing with multiple regulatory agencies and had significant redevelopment infrastructure costs up front, which were too much to bear.
Smith said the Mesa deal was easy compared to that because Gaylord only had to negotiate with the city. Besides, infrastructure costs on the Mesa Proving Grounds are lower in comparison, he said.
Conflicting community interests also were noted as a hurdle. It's been widely reported that Gaylord ran into negotiation issues with labor unions in California.
In a San Diego Union Tribune article, Port Commission Chairman Michael Bixler of Imperial Beach is quoted as saying, "The lesson to be learned is that when you have a billion-dollar project, you can push these things outside the bounds of success and end up with nothing."
Gaylord, which is known for developing massive convention and hotel properties across the country, plans to build a minimum 1,200-room upscale resort in Mesa, which is being heralded as a panacea for attracting conventions and tourism to Arizona and national name-recognition for Mesa.
Roc Arnett, president of the East Valley Partnership, expressed confidence that Mesa voters will agree to give a bed tax incentive for Gaylord and another resort project at the Mesa Proving Grounds in a special March 10 election. That money, it's stipulated, will be used to promote the properties and the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway area in east Mesa.
"It will be a good economic engine for Mesa, not just for the jobs it brings but the excitement the development will bring to the area," Arnett said.
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