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Missouri Hotelier John Q. Hammons Files Plans for a 250-room Marriott Hotel with
130,000 square feet of Convention Space Located in Downtown Boise, Idaho

By Kathleen Kreller, The Idaho Statesman, BoiseMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Nov. 8, 2007 --A development group has submitted designs to the city for a hotel and convention center Downtown that could cost $100 million.

The plans include a 10-story, 250-room Marriott Hotel and roughly 130,000 square feet of convention space. The convention space would be leased by the Greater Boise Auditorium District, which plans to build a separate parking structure on the site.

The development group submitted a design review application Tuesday. City officials say the application is being reviewed and will get a public hearing later this year.

For years, local officials have pushed for a larger convention center to attract larger events and regional conferences to the Treasure Valley. But a 5-acre lot owned by the Auditorium District between 11th and 13th streets has sat empty as bond measures and private development deals have fallen apart. The district was in danger of losing the land to a private trust, which had sold the acres with the stipulation they be developed quickly.

Then last year, Missouri hotelier John Q. Hammons proposed a hotel and convention center combination. The project would be a partnership between Hammons and Oppenheimer Development Corp. of Boise.

Jack Coonce, an executive of Oppenheimer, said plans call for starting construction in June after city hearings on the project begin in December.

Coonce described the project as a two-story upscale convention center with a barrel-vaulted roof and a light tower at the entrance. Retail spaces would be included.

"This is the west gate and development into Downtown Boise," he said.

Though the project is ostensibly a partnership among Hammons, Oppenheimer and the district, officials say no deal has been signed because they aren't yet certain of costs. Coonce said he's confident the Auditorium District can cover the hefty costs of leasing and operating the convention center.

"This is another positive step in the process to develop a new first-class hotel property in Downtown Boise and address our critical need for additional meeting and convention space," said Mike Fitzgerald, vice chairman of the Auditorium District.

The deal is not final but is very likely because of the time and money already invested, Coonce said.

"We plan on going full speed ahead," Coonce said as he gestured to blueprints and renderings laid out over a conference table in his Downtown Boise office. "This represents a lot of work to get to this point."

This fall, the Auditorium District launched a contingency plan for a new parking structure in case the Oppenheimer and Hammons deal falls through. The district asked the city to approve a parking lot with 196 spaces on part of the site. The city said the district needs a conditional-use permit for the lot.

Kathleen Kreller: 377-6418


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