|The Palm Beach Post,
Fla.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Oct. 27, 2012--Even in the best case, it will be a few years before downtown West Palm Beach gets its long-awaited convention center hotel. But this week the important project may have cleared its last political hurdle, with the announcement that West Palm Beach, Palm Beach County and the hotel developer have agreed on plans for payments to the city as part of the deal.
After more than a decade of delays and false starts, the process of designing and building the 400-room Hilton hotel soon may begin. The project is expected to boost the underperforming convention center and bring millions of tourism dollars.
In July, county commissioners approved the general plan to build the hotel alongside the county's convention center on Okeechobee Boulevard, with the county contributing $27 million to the $100 million project. The Related Cos., which developed nearby CityPlace, would finance the majority of the project and build an adjacent parking garage.
But West Palm Beach had negotiated a settlement requiring that the hotel site either include $32 million in private condos or be privately owned entirely, so the the city could collect property taxes. Since the county's deal calls for neither, The Related Cos. agreed to directly pay West Palm Beach each year the same amount the city would collect if the hotel were on private property.
City and county commissioners are expected to officially sign off next week. County officials expect that the hotel could open by 2015. Since the convention center loses $1 million a year, construction of the hotel can't start soon enough.
for The Post Editorial Board
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