|By Dale Quinn, The Arizona Daily Star,
TucsonMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
May 20, 2010 - --A hotel at the UA Science and Technology Park on Tucson's southeast side could be under construction at the beginning of next year.
The Tech Park, 9070 S. Rita Road, has been authorized to sell $23 million in bonds to pay for the project, though the actual construction cost could be lower, said Bruce Wright, associate vice president of University of Arizona Research Parks.
Sales on the bonds could begin in October, subject to final approval from the Arizona Board or Regents, Wright said.
Designs call for the hotel to have four stories, roughly 130 rooms and 8,000 square feet of conference space.
Wright said Tech Park officials are in final negotiations with a major hotel brand, but he could not disclose the name because of confidentiality agreements.
The brand would operate the hotel for the Tech Park but wouldn't own it.
Securing a major brand name was an important step, Wright said: "It really enhances the economic feasibility of the hotel."
While the bond money was designated more than a year ago, Tech Park officials were waiting for the bond market to improve and hotel occupancy rates to increase.
Low construction costs also provided incentive to move forward on the project, Wright said.
Discussions are under way with a contractor to finalize the design phase and settle on a maximum price to determine how many bonds need to be sold.
Wright said tenants at the Tech Park initially sparked interest in having a hotel there.
"We've been here for 15 years working closely with our tenants and they have repeated that it would be advantageous to have a hotel on or near the Tech Park," he said.
The hotel will target business travelers and provide amenities for guests requiring an extended stay.
Many of the companies at the Tech Park have international customers and management teams flying in from overseas, said Sandra Garcia, a spokeswoman for Dilas Diode Laser Inc.
As a German-based company, Dilas often has managers visiting who need a place to stay and there aren't too many options on the southeast side, Garcia said. She said closer accommodations for those managers and any international clients will make it easier to conduct business.
"If it really pans out the way it's planned, it should be great for the park," Garcia said.
The economic impact
The UA Science and Technology Park contributes $3 billion a year to Pima County's economy, according to a University of Arizona report being released today.
The report, based on data from 2008, found that:
--The Tech Park's tenants paid $593.3 million in wages to employees with the average worker making $85,500 in 2008.
--About 7,000 employees worked at the Tech Park in 2008 and it added 250 new jobs each year in the 11 years prior.
--The park's 40 tenants, which include businesses and educational institutions, contributed an estimated $77.9 million in tax revenues.
Contact reporter Dale Quinn at 573-4197 or email@example.com
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