|By Barbara Carmen, The Columbus Dispatch,
OhioMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
November 17, 2009 --The planned $140 million Hilton-Downtown Columbus convention hotel will start to rise above N. High Street next August, a project team told Franklin County commissioners this morning.
"Another great project for Downtown," Commissioner John O'Grady said after seeing architectural drawings of the hotel, which include a towering glass atrium. Community leaders say the additional rooms are necessary to draw larger groups to the nearby Greater Columbus Convention Center, and thereby will help fill surrounding hotels.
Commissioners have pledged $8 million for the project. That money will go into a county-controlled contingency fund, which will be used only if the hotel fails and rooms aren't booked.
The taxpayer guarantee netted the project lower interest rates, 4.2 percent instead of 20 percent, at a time when investment dollars are tight, said Thomas K. Henson, senior managing director for public finance for PNC Capital Markets.
The new hotel, to open in fall 2012, will have 10 levels but appear to rise about 13 stories given several taller floors.
The development team is briefing community leaders today about the project. Columbus officials and county commissioners, which partnered with the Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority to lure the hotel, are expected to sign off on the project by mid-December. Columbus is chipping in $1.4 million a year in parking meter revenues.
Commissioners liked what they saw. The hotel will have 484 rooms and 48 suites, a ballroom, two banquet rooms and five meeting rooms. Its restaurant will seat as many as 400, and a lounge, 100. A small coffee shop will serve 10 to 20 people.
"It's got a new urbanism feel," Commissioner Paula Brooks said.
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