News for the Hospitality Executive
|By J. Andrew Curliss, The News & Observer, Raleigh, N.C.
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Dec. 9, 2003 - RALEIGH, N.C.--Three teams that want to develop a high-rise hotel next to a proposed convention center downtown submitted designs Monday and asked for taxpayers' help to get the project done.
Two asked for $20 million in public incentives, the maximum available to secure any deal, city officials said. The third asked for $18.9 million.
City and county officials will meet with the developers this week. On Thursday, City Council members and Wake County commissioners are scheduled to hear a briefing about the overall convention and hotel plans.
Public hearings and decisions are scheduled, for now, for January.
The timetable calls for opening a convention center and hotel together in early 2007.
Beyond money, the three teams offered a variety of views on how the hotel would look and function. Two would put the Marriott brand on the side; the third is proposing a Westin.
They all propose to include restaurants, sports bars or cafes and coffee shops. One team says that Angus Barn, a popular destination for Triangle diners for decades, would run its restaurant.
Another group included plans for turning the east side of the existing civic center, which will remain once most of the building is demolished, into condominiums and street-level shopping.
City and county officials did not review the proposals in depth Monday. They said it will take weeks to digest them. A presentation to elected leaders will be scheduled for January.
Daniel Howe, the city's strategic projects manager, said that it won't be easy to sort them out but that officials will focus more on the numbers than on glossy drawings.
"At first blush, I can't say that any one stands out over the others," he said.
The public money would come from hotel and meals taxes.
The developers differed on the size of meeting and ballroom spaces, where the main restaurant would go, and how tall the hotel would be. Buildings of 14, 15 or 17 stories are proposed.
They also bring different amounts of cash to the project. The equity each puts in will be a major factor in whether the city thinks the developer will get the deal done, Howe said.
"We look at that and see it as an ability to pull this off," he said. "A year from now, when the big money is being drawn down, we want someone in there who isn't subject to whatever the market conditions happen to be right at that time."
The hotel project is seen as a linchpin in the city's plans for a new convention center.
The developers say they can't build and finance a hotel downtown without help from the public in the form of land, parking, heating and cooling systems and other infrastructure.
A new hotel is badly needed, city and county leaders say, because convention and meeting planners would not book events in a new Raleigh convention hall without more guest rooms nearby.
Elected officials haven't yet decided to build a convention center or hotel, but asked for the developers' proposals as part of the preparation for a vote on the projects. Already, the city is buying land for the center. A decision to go ahead or not is expected in January.
The three teams that want to build the hotel are Convention Center Hotel Group, Stormont Noble Development, and Trammell Crow/Garfield Traub Development.
--Convention Center Hotel Group: This group is led by Raleigh hoteliers Gene Singleton and Doyle Parrish of Summitt Hospitality, and Roddy Jones and Jay Mahan of Davidson and Jones Hotel Corp. They propose a Marriott.
Their plan shows an Angus Barn-run restaurant on the Fayetteville Street side of the hotel, with a grand lobby entrance and adjoining convention center entrance. The proposal also shows a coffee and gift shop, ballroom and meeting rooms on the main level.
There is a "lower lobby" entrance on the Salisbury Street side, which is one level below because of the terrain. From there, cars could pull into a below-ground parking deck. There's also room on the lower level for a retail shop and sports bar or lounge. A visitors center is in the plan, too.
The group says it needs $18.9 million in public money to build the public spaces of the hotel, including parking. It offered to share any hotel profits with the city and said the city's share could amount to $140,000 a year.
It says it has $9 million in cash from the partners.
--Stormont Noble Development: This group is led by Atlanta hotelier Richard Stormont and Mitesh Shah, president of Noble Investment. They propose a Marriott.
The team proposes a "formal lawn and lush gardens" along Fayetteville Street in front of the hotel. The lobby and a restaurant would front the street, as well as a sports bar. Parking would be in a city-owned deck.
Using the existing civic center, the group wants to build three stories of condos above shops.
Howe said that aspect of the plan might be severed to allow for easier comparisons between the proposals.
Stormont Noble says it has $14.2 million in equity, which is well above the others. It includes $12.7 million from Lubert Adler Funds, a major national real- estate investor.
--Trammell Crow and Garfield Traub Development: This group, headed by Martin McFarland, managing director of Trammell Crow in the Carolinas, and Garfield Traub principals Ray Garfield and Eric Traub, proposed a Westin.
The plan, drawn by city-selected convention center architect TVS of Atlanta, shows entrances on the Fayetteville and Salisbury street sides of the hotel.
But it puts meeting rooms at one corner of the structure and a mechanical area at the other -- something that city officials who want to put more activity on the streets might frown upon.
A small shop is shown off the main lobby, while a bar/restaurant is on the second floor. Parking is at a nearby city deck.
The proposal also shows the lowest amount of equity, $4.7 million. The source of the money is not disclosed. The plan has the fewest suites and shows a higher nightly room rate than the others.
"Our plan is the result of a lot of due diligence, and it represents what is realistic, not optimistic," McFarland said.
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(c) 2003, The News & Observer, Raleigh, N.C. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News. TCC, MAR, HOT,