Sept. 18–The city of Hutchinson is taking another swing at bringing an "upscale or upper midscale" franchise hotel and adjacent convention center here.
Developers are to submit their qualifications and proposals to Hutchinson City Hall by 5 p.m. Friday, Sept.28. The 11-page request for proposals does not specify the dollar value for potential public aid, but states that the city "is prepared to offer incentives."
Possibilities range from a developer identifying the Hutchinson Mall or the Kansas State Fairgrounds as a location for a hotel and convention center — to the chance that no one submits a formal plan before the deadline arrives.
"We have not had a lot of inquiries," said Hutchinson City Manager John Deardoff, about the request for proposals issued Aug. 22.
What the city wants
The request for proposals spells out the city's desires:
* The city wants "a highly qualified and financially capable development partner for the design, financing, construction, and operation of a hotel and convention center;"
* At a minimum, the franchise hotel must have 150 sleeping rooms;
* It must have flexible ballroom/exhibit space of roughly 20,000 square feet which would include a multipurpose space divisible into a minimum of three rooms;
* It also must have approximately 15,000 square feet of breakout room space for a minimum of seven rooms of various sizes;
* The property also must have lobbies, a pre-function area, storage, production kitchen and other support spaces.
The plan envisions that the development partner — not the city — would own and operate the hotel and convention center.
Top officials with the Kansas State Fair expressed hope last week that a potential developer will consider locating the hotel and convention center on the fairgrounds in the middle of Hutchinson.
The fairgrounds encompass 280 acres, noted State Fair Board President Virginia Crossland-Macha. "I think we have a built-in audience to some degree. I think it's a great opportunity," said interim State Fair General Manager Bob Moeder.
There are hundreds of events on the fairgrounds in addition to the 10-day State Fair, and a hotel and convention center could help boost non-fair activity, State Fair officials think.
"I think it's as great a site as any in Hutch," said Hutchinson/Reno County Chamber of Commerce President and Chief Executive Officer Debra Teufel.
The city's request for proposals for the hotel and convention center appears on the Chamber's website along with maps of potential sites, including the fairgrounds, the mall, and tax-benefit districts.
Teufel and Deardoff point out that the Atrium Hotel & Conference Center, 1400 North Lorraine St., could be a participant in this new search for a hotel and convention center.
In 2004, the city selected a Nebraska developer to renovate and enhance the hotel property at 1400 North Lorraine. Expenses exceeded funds and the hotel fell into a receivership.
Currently, the city and the Atrium are in an agreement in which transient guest tax dollars are available for improvements to the convention center at the Atrium. If the Atrium's Texas-based owner submitted a proposal to demolish the existing hotel rooms and to replace them with a franchise hotel that utilizes the convention center area, that could make the Atrium a competitive entry, Deardoff indicated.
Honestly, Teufel said, the Atrium probably has a good shot because it has the convention center in place. Kyle Boehlke, the sales administrator for the Atrium, said the property has 3,600 square feet of meeting space. That puts it in line with the space requested in the new proposal.
The News was unable to reach Dallas hotelier Joshua Joseph, who is the businessman behind the Atrium's owner, Hutch Joseph Investments LLC.
If another developer comes in and proposes a project that gets the city's approval, the city's financial help for improvements at the Atrium's convention center more than likely would become a funding stream for the new project, Deardoff said.