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Wanted: Developers, Designers for Houston, Texas Convention Hotel

Houston First Corp. Seeking Proposals from Developers and Designers Who Could
Build, Own and Operate the Planned Hotel with at Least 1,000 Rooms

By Nancy Sarnoff, Houston ChronicleMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

March 09, 2012--Plans to develop a new convention-center hotel in downtown Houston moved another step forward this week.

Houston First Corp., which owns Hilton Americas-Houston and operates the George R. Brown Convention Center and other city-backed buildings, released a document seeking qualifications and proposals from developers and designers who could build, own and operate a hotel with at least 1,000 rooms and a parking garage on land near the convention center.

Houston First, formed by last year's merger of the Houston Convention & Entertainment Facilities Department and the Houston Convention Center Hotel Corp., controls a 6.7-acre site adjacent to the northern end of the convention center. The area is large enough to incorporate other uses beyond a hotel, so developers are encouraged to propose commercial and residential projects there as well.

Convention officials have been eager to see a second large hotel in the east end of downtown.

The Hilton Americas-Houston has helped boost convention activity, but more rooms are needed to compete for meeting business, said Houston First chairman Ric Campo.

"You really need a couple thousand more rooms in downtown adjacent to George R. Brown to expand it to the next level," Campo said.

The new hotel, he said, could cost as much as $400 million to build.

The developer would be responsible for financing the project, but Houston First would help it obtain hotel-occupancy and sales-tax rebates from the city and state. Property-tax abatements could also be used.

Any plan involving a public financial contribution would have to be approved by the mayor and City Council.

The project is part of a bigger plan for the area.

Houston First recently released a new master plan that could result in new shops, housing and other attractions, as well as an expansion of the city's convention center.

The qualifications are due April 20 and a team could be chosen this summer. Teams will be evaluated on their experience, financial strength and past performance with privately financed hotels and other real-estate projects, according to the document.


(c)2012 the Houston Chronicle

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