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Developers Plan on Using $26 million in Federal Economic Recovery
 Zone Bonds to Build a $38 million 180-room Wyndham Branded
 Hotel in Downtown Greensboro

News and Record, Greensboro, N.C.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

July 09, 2010 --A proposed new luxury hotel at South Elm and Davie streets had seemed a lost cause.

When the deadline came and went for federal bond financing, and the hotel backers failed to follow through on their application, the project had appeared to fade, quietly, into oblivion. Now it's back, with a revamped vision and a formidable operating partner.

The $38 million hotel would bear the well-known Wyndham flag, a good fit in a community whose PGA Tour golf tournament also carries the Wyndham name.

The Wyndham Hotel Group includes more than 7,090 properties in 65 countries.

The new hotel would be privately financed through $26 million in federal economic recovery zone bonds, which enable borrowing at discount rates. The buyers of those bonds also are exempt from taxes on the interest they earn. The rest of the backing would come from $8 million in new-market tax credits, and $4 million in the owners' equity. Further, financiers have been assembled to market the bonds and tax credits. No taxpayer money would be involved.

Among modifications in the plans for the project are more stories (10 versus eight) but fewer rooms (180 versus 200). Having seen the original plans, a consultant hired by the city to evaluate the original proposal had cast doubt on the project in January. Now, based on the revisions, HVS Consulting and Variation Services forecasts profits as early as the very first year.

Even so, reasonable people will continue to disagree about the wisdom of placing yet another hotel in a market that some experts say is already saturated with hotel rooms. If a new downtown hotel would work, longtime local hotelier Dennis Quaintance has said, he'd have built one.

But the new hotel would be located in the heart of downtown, only a few steps from restaurants, the International Civil Rights Center and Museum and Triad Stage. It would be attached to an established event facility, Elm Street Center, whose owners are partners in the hotel project. The hotel also could extend the distinctive vibe of Elm Street to the still-moribund Davie Street, and (we can only hope) beyond.

Another major sticking point had been the casual oversight of the recovery bonds vetting process by the county commissioners and the Greensboro City Council, who chose to take rubber-stamp approaches to the process, since it didn't involve local tax money. That prompted Quaintance and his partner, Mike Weaver, to file (and eventually withdraw) a lawsuit alleging that the process had been neither thorough nor transparent. Quaintance and Weaver obviously had a stake in the outcome, since the new hotel would be a competitor. But they also had a point.

As improved as the new vision for the hotel may be, it deserves a thorough hearing. Since recovery bonds again are involved, there will be another vetting process, including the county commissioners.

They should do it right this time.

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Copyright (c) 2010, News and Record, Greensboro, N.C.

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