|By Rich Laden, The Gazette, Colorado
Springs, Colo.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
October 22, 2009 - A Missouri developer might be abandoning his planned 225-room hotel in southwest downtown, which would deal another setback to the sputtering 8-year-old effort to redevelop the light industrial area.
John Q. Hammons, who is currently constructing a 300-room hotel on the city's north side and who has built hundreds of hotels around the nation, hasn't responded to recent calls and a letter from the Colorado Springs Urban Renewal Authority, officials said. During a meeting today, some authority officials said they need to be prepared to move on without him.
Hammons already had agreed to a non-binding blueprint for an initial phase of the area's redevelopment, which included a parking garage and an arts district. Authority officials had wanted him to sign off on an updated version of the plan.
Neither Hammons nor his representatives could be reached for comment.
The City Council declared about 100 acres, mostly southwest of Colorado and Cascade avenues, as an urban renewal site in August 2001. Since then, an effort to build a convention center flopped, and plans for office, retail and residential uses have gone nowhere.
Sales and property tax revenue generated by a hotel would be used to help pay for public improvements in southwest downtown. Also, Springs developer Chuck Murphy has said he and a partner wanted to develop an arts district if Hammons built his hotel. Murphy couldn't be reached Thursday.
"The hotel was kind of the ultimate anchor," authority consultant Chuck Miller said about the possibility Hammons is pulling out. "It was a big (revenue) generator. It was a people generator. Certainly, we were relying on the number of people that would rotate through the hotel and go on and use other services...It would be a big disappointment."
But nobody should be surprised; the nation's hotel industry has been hammered by the recession, Miller added.
Authority Board Chairman Clay Benson said he wants to make one more attempt to contact Hammons. Yet, he also urged colleagues to think about new ideas for southwest downtown.
"We need to be advocates for the area and see if we can make something happen," Benson said.
Meanwhile, Colorado Springs Utilities' former administration building, the possible site of Hammons hotel and which has become a target for vandalism, theft and transients, will be torn down as soon as possible, Lisa Bigelow, the city's budget and economic development director, told the authority. The site might be used on an interim basis as parking for nearby America the Beautiful Park.
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Copyright (c) 2009, The Gazette, Colorado Springs, Colo.
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