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March 12--Local officials say an expanded Downtown Hilton hotel will help central Ohio become a convention and tourism destination.

"There's no doubt in my mind that this is one of the best investments that our community can make," Franklin County Commissioners President Kevin Boyce said at an event Monday to officially announce plans for the hotel. "Central Ohio is on the move."

The announcement confirmed what The Dispatch first reported March 2 -- the Hilton is expanding its current 532-bed hotel on North High Street with a separate building across North Nigh Street containing 470 beds that will abut the Greater Columbus Convention Center.

The 1,002-bed hotel will elevate Columbus into the company of major cities hoping to lure conventions, trade shows and sporting and political events, officials said.

Columbus Mayor Andrew J. Ginther noted that the original Hilton had doubters before it opened in October 2012, but in the six years it has been opened it has drawn $41 million from groups the area otherwise would have been unable to attract because of the lack of hotel rooms and amenities.

"There were those who feared it would cannibalize other hotels Downtown," Ginther said of the original Hilton, "or that we couldn't fill the hotel on a consistent basis. Every concern expressed at the time proved to be unfounded."

The Hilton expansion is expected to cost $162 million to $190 million. The 30-year loan to build it will be paid for by room rates, as the debt on the original Hilton has been paid. Franklin County and the city of Columbus are using their exceptional credit rating to lower costs, making the project more attractive to potential investors. The governments, though, expect to never pay for any of the debt on the expanded Hilton.

Ground is expected to be broken late this year. The expanded Hilton is scheduled to be opened in the third quarter of 2021.

kperry@dispatch.com

@kimballperry

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