|By Rich Laden, The Gazette, Colorado
Springs, Colo.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Oct. 20, 2011--The partially built, 11-story Renaissance Hotel in northern Colorado Springs has a new owner, who plans to re-sell the property as soon as possible in hopes it can be completed in about a year.
Flintco Inc., the hotel's Tulsa, Okla., general contractor, was declared the winning bidder for the property at an El Paso County sheriff's foreclosure auction Thursday after no other bidders emerged. The auction was ordered in June by a 4th Judicial District court to satisfy unpaid bills owed to Flintco after it filed a legal claim against John Q. Hammons Hotels & Resorts of Missouri, the hotel's developer.
"Our goal is to get it sold and get the thing finished as quickly as we can, and have it be the asset for Colorado Springs that it was intended to be," said Flintco CEO Tom Maxwell, who attended the auction.
Construction on the hotel, east of Interstate 25 and InterQuest Parkway and part of the InterQuest Marketplace retail center, was started by Hammons' company patriarch John Q. Hammons in April 2008. But work was halted in October 2009.
Hammons said in early 2010 that he planned to finish the project after acquiring additional financing and after having spent $47 million of his own money. Work never resumed, however, and Hammons, 92, is in a Springfield, Mo., nursing home. His company underwent a management shake-up last year; current company officials blamed the poor economy for their inability to finish the project.
Flintco, which has worked on several Hammons' hotels in the past, reached agreement with Hammons' officials that a foreclosure auction was the best way to resolve the unpaid bills.
The auction took place in less than a minute Thursday morning in the lobby of the sheriff's Metro Detention Facility in downtown Colorado Springs. About two dozen people attended, including some from the local lodging industry. No offers were received other than Flintco's $28.8 million.
Justin Harris, a Hammons' senior vice president and general counsel who was on hand Thursday, said the company remains disappointed it didn't finish the hotel. Founder John Q. Hammons has built more than 200 hotels in a half-century career, and the Renaissance in the Springs might be the first the company has ever abandoned. Hammons had envisioned the hotel to serve business people and leisure travelers; the hotel has I-25 access, is a short drive from the Air Force Academy and has terrific views.
"It's a beautiful project, a beautiful hotel," Harris said. "It's one that we wanted to open. It would have been a signature hotel and resort for us. But it just didn't work out."
Flintco has potential buyers interested in the property, although Maxwell declined to say how many or whether they're local, regional or national. Bob Cope, an analyst with the city of Colorado Springs' economic development division who attended the auction, said he's fielded 10 to 12 inquiries -- none local -- over the last six months from parties who asked about the market and whether city assistance would be available for the hotel's completion.
Flintco has hired Houston-based Holliday Fenoglio Fowler, a commercial real estate firm that provides a variety of services, to market the property. William Stadler, a senior managing director with Holliday Fenoglio Fowler, said the company is "reaching out to all different types of investors -- public-private (real estate investment trusts), high network individuals (and) private equity firms."
The fact that the hotel is about half completed -- Hammons officials had previously said it was two-thirds to 70 percent finished -- means there will be less construction risk for a buyer and it will take less time to get the project completed, Stadler said.
"We're confident we'll find an investor shortly," he said.
Maxwell declined to comment on Flintco's asking price, although the Holliday website says "the hotel can be acquired at a significant discount to the original completion estimate and is being sold unencumbered of both brand and management. The approximate half-constructed hotel can be completed in 10-12 months from construction re-start."
The hotel was to be a Renaissance, which is part of the Marriott family of hotel brands. But a buyer could re-brand the hotel, and decide what the finished product will look like, Maxwell said.
As described on the Holliday website, the hotel's amenities include its 300 rooms; 46,495 square feet of meeting space, which is spread out over 18 meeting rooms and a 28,800 square-foot ballroom; a 191-seat, full-service restaurant; a 100-seat atrium lounge and bar with outdoor seating; a coffee bar; spa; fitness room; heated indoor pool; whirlpool; gift shop; concierge desk; business center; Wi-Fi and wired Internet access; and 915 parking spaces.
Doug Price, Colorado Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau president and CEO, said he's confident the hotel will attract a buyer willing to invest millions into the project -- even in today's poor economy. There hasn't been a full-service hotel opened in the Springs since the late 1980s, he said.
"Hotel developers have to look to the future," Price said. "You can't live in the moment. You have to build it with a 30-year plan."
Price said he hopes the finished hotel, with its nearly 50,000 square feet of meeting space, would attract attention from meeting and event planners eying the Front Range if a proposed 1,500-room hotel and entertainment complex is constructed in Aurora by Nashville, Tenn.-based Gaylord Entertainment Co.
A new north-side hotel also could become a "demand generator" and stimulate nearby development, Price said. The InterQuest Marketplace retail center, where the hotel is located, is home to two restaurants and a 14-screen Hollywood Theaters complex; a Brunswick Fun Zone, which has been planned for several years, is now under construction.
"It could be a great stimulus," Price said.
While Flintco was the only bidder, an eight-day redemption period will take place to allow lien holders to come forward if they feel they're owed money related to the hotel. However, Maxwell said Flintco has paid its suppliers and subcontractors, and doesn't expect challenges to its purchase. After the redemption period, Flintco will be issued the deed on the property.
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