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A Plan for a Publicly Financed Convention Hotel in Downtown Tucson
 Draws Serious Interest From Five Development Teams
By Christie Smythe, The Arizona Daily Star, TucsonMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

May 18, 2007 - A plan for a publicly financed convention hotel Downtown has drawn serious interest from up to five development teams.

An informational meeting held earlier this week by the city attracted representatives from groups led by Hotel Arizona owner Humberto Lopez and developer Roger Karber; gem show owner Allan Norville; Dallas-based Garfield Traub Development; and Southwest Value Partners, a real estate investment firm founded by Phoenix Suns majority owner Robert Sarver.

The meeting also was attended by Faulkner USA, an Austin, Texas-based development firm that has previously built Hilton- and Hyatt-branded properties. Faulkner representatives did not return calls.

Lopez's team includes Greeley, Colo.-based Hensel Phelps Construction Co., a leading builder of convention hotels, including the Hyatt Regency Denver and the San Jose (Calif.) Marriott. Norville has recruited HOK Venue, an architectural firm specializing in convention and exhibition centers.

Garfield Traub was previously selected by the city as a potential developer for an arena, another Downtown project that's in the hopper.

Jaret Barr, assistant to City Manager Mike Hein, would not say how many proposals he expects the city to receive for the hotel project. Preliminary concepts are due June 1. The city plans to pick its favorites by June 15 and request formal proposals, Barr said.

The hotel is expected to have at least 600 rooms and be of four- or five-star quality, Barr said. It would likely be financed through tax-exempt bonds, which probably would be repaid with revenue from the hotel, he said.

Only a select number of brands will be considered for the convention hotel, said Charles Johnson, a consultant to the city on the project. The brands include Starwood and Omni, as well as Hilton, Marriott and Hyatt. Radisson- or Clarion-branded hotels also might be acceptable, he added.

While the plans are officially being requested for the hotel project alone, the city also would be interested in a more expansive development plan, said Richard Singer, director of the Tucson Convention Center.

Other possibilities might include office buildings, condos and restaurants, he said.

"We're encouraging them to come back and tell us there are other things they can make happen," Singer said. "We're open to suggestions, but the hotel is the bare minimum to get involved."

As part of the Downtown Redevelopment Plan -- formerly known as Rio Nuevo -- the city is spearheading the hotel and arena projects, and is planning to expand the Convention Center with help from about $500 million collected through a special tax district.

Some development teams will likely submit plans for the hotel only, but others might try more comprehensive plans, including the arena and the remodeling of the Convention Center, said Curt Woody of Sundt Construction Inc., which is working with Garfield Traub.

Singer said it is difficult to project what the proposals will contain.

Representatives of up to five possible bidding teams attended a get- together about the proposed Tucson Convention Center and Downtown hotel redevelopment project this week. The possible bidders on the project include teams led by:

--Hotel Arizona owner Humberto S. Lopez and developer Roger Karber.

--Allan Norville, owner of a prime Downtown parcel.

--Dallas-based Garfield Traub Development.

--Southwest Value Partners, a real estate investment firm founded by Robert Sarver.

--Faulkner USA, an Austin, Texas-based development firm that has previously built Hilton- and Hyatt-branded properties.

--Contact reporter Christie Smythe at 434-4083 or


Copyright (c) 2007, The Arizona Daily Star, Tucson

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