|By Marla Matzer Rose, The Columbus
Dispatch, OhioMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Oct. 19, 2011--The backers of the Hilton Columbus Downtown, rising across High Street from the Greater Columbus Convention Center, marked a milestone in the hotel's development yesterday by holding a 'topping off' ceremony for the 532-room building.
Fifteen months after the company broke ground and 11 months before the hotel is scheduled to open, the frame of the structure is now essentially completed --"on time and on budget," noted John Christie, chairman of the Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority board.
The hotel is being built on land owned by the authority, which also controls the convention center.
"This is enhancing the competitiveness of Columbus as a destination," Christie said, underscoring the importance of the convention business to the local economy.
Mayor Michael B. Coleman said the hotel is part of the city's ongoing effort "to build a destination place in the community." Now that Columbus' assets and stature are growing, he said, "We need a place for people to sleep overnight."
The bonds paying for the $140 million project are backed by Franklin County, with the city providing a backup guarantee. County Commissioners Marilyn Brown and Paula Brooks also spoke, praising the contribution of the construction workers present, from project manager Turner Construction, and the revenue and jobs the hotel is expected to bring to the area.
Some local hoteliers recently expressed concern that the new hotel could cannibalize their business if the city doesn't devote more money permanently to funding Experience Columbus, the city's convention and visitors bureau. But they continue to support the hope that, with proper marketing, a new convention hotel can bring in business. The general managers of at least a half-dozen other local hotels, including the Hyatt Regency and the Westin Columbus, attended yesterday's event.
The event allowed Christian Coffin, just appointed general manager of the new Hilton, to introduce himself to community leaders. Coffin, who will be moving from the Hilton Boston Back Bay to take the job, said the hotel will use local vendors wherever possible. He said the hotel will feature works by local artists, and its restaurant will use locally grown produce when the hotel opens in September 2012.
(c)2011 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)
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