|By Lisa Fernandez, San Jose Mercury News,
Calif.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
June 11, 2011--First high-tech icon Steve Jobs swooped in this week for a surprise visit to the Cupertino City Council. Now, football legend Joe Montana is expected to appear before the Santa Clara City Council to personally pitch a luxury hotel project.
Tuesday night, the council will review a request by Montana and his partners to lease and develop two city-owned parcels north of Tasman Avenue, adjacent to the site for the planned new 49ers stadium.
"There's no spaceship involved," said Santa Clara Mayor Jamie Matthews, referring to the circular office complex Apple (AAPL) hopes to build in Cupertino. "But this is really exciting."
The council is scheduled to vote on giving Montana and his partners exclusive rights to negotiate a deal to develop the seven-acre property. Their concept includes an entertainment complex and sports bar.
Montana's project comes before the council one year after voters gave the go-ahead to build a stadium near the Great America theme park.
The new price tag of the 68,500-seat stadium is $50 million more than first proposed -- $987 million. And raising that much money in light of an NFL labor lockout, along with state threats to take over redevelopment agency funds, are
two of several reasons that financing the stadium deal in recent months has become more difficult.
The hotel plan, pitched by Montana and former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr., is not contingent on whether the stadium is built, but Matthews said the two are "directly related."
Montana's personal visit to the City Council may be a new twist. But his proposal isn't.
His attorney, Robert Mezzetti II, sent a letter to the city in December stating that Montana and DeBartolo, along with Connecticut developer Kurt Wittek, wanted to build a luxury hotel, sports bar and entertainment complex on two parcels of city-owned land. The letter requested an 18-month exclusive negotiating agreement to develop the land to "complement the 49ers stadium" and bring additional revenue to Santa Clara.
There have been no details revealed on what the complex would look like, what it would cost to build and how much the city would charge to lease the land.
Mezzetti said in an interview that the proposal is still in the early stages and that Montana was appearing in person because "it's his deal, and he's excited about the project."
Montana could not be immediately reached for comment. Mezzetti said the football great was "out of town with his family."
Although Montana is best known for his football exploits, the former 49ers quarterback is also a partner with Wittek in a $300 million mixed-use residential and retail development project near the South Hayward BART station.
Matthews, who met a few months ago with Montana and called the hall-of-famer "a lot taller in real life than he is on TV," said the deal is almost too good to be true. Matthews said the city has not been able to lease this land for years. In fact, a possible Marriott Hotel deal fell through 13 years ago when a study showed hotel rooms in the area weren't needed.
There have been a few critics who have wondered how well a hotel/entertainment district would do in that spot. But for the most part, even council members worried about the city's contribution to the stadium project have been hopeful that this privately funded venture by a football great would be a boon for Santa Clara.
"Any type of development or hotel would be good because of the taxes, and that hopefully would offset the cost of the stadium," said Councilman Will Kennedy. "We'll just have to see what Mr. Montana's proposal is. I think it would be attractive to more than football fans because of the high-tech and Yahoo (YHOO) employees nearby, too. And I figure that if Mr. Montana didn't think this was going to be successful, he wouldn't do it."
Added Councilwoman Jamie McLeod: "I think Joe Montana's the greatest quarterback in the world. But it's his application to the city that's important here."
Contact Lisa Fernandez at 408-920-5002.
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