September 12th, 2013 | by Nigel Jaquiss and Aaron Mesh News | Posted In: City Hall, Multnomah County, Metro

Charlie Hales Says He's "Leaning Toward Supporting" Convention Center Hotel

Multnomah County has three votes, placing onus on City Hall

murmurs1_3909Mayor Charlie Hales - IMAGE: Kenton Waltz

Metro's proposed $198 million Oregon Convention Center headquarters hotel now hinges on the approval of Portland City Council—and Mayor Charlie Hales tells WW he's "leaning toward supporting it."

Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith told Metro reporter Nick Christensen last night that the county board has three votes to pass the Hyatt hotel plan. If she's correct, that means two of three regional governments have backed the plan, with Portland left undecided.

Hales told WW this week he's moving toward backing Metro's proposal at the Sept. 18 City Council meeting.

"I have been fairly ambivalent about this one," Hales says, "but I'm leaning toward supporting it."

When the city council takes up Metro's headquarters hotel next week, the commissioners will review a very different deal from the one former Mayor Sam Adams championed in 2009.

This time around, Metro President Tom Hughes has crafted a proposal that requires almost nothing from the city—a relatively paltry $4 million from the Portland Development Commission, rather than city-backed bond financing as Adams proposed four years ago. 

Although a lot could change, the deal as it has been presented so far is likely to find a council majority, provided Metro is amenable to some minor tweaks.

City Commissioner Nick Fish warns that council has not yet reached unanimity—several commissioners are  weighing amendments to the intergovernmental agreement. 

"Our building is not formed," Fish says.

Hughes has been stepping up his push for the hotel project in recent weeks, making it a central promise of his reelection-campaign rhetoric.

During last year's mayoral race, Hales indicated he could be persuaded: He told WW he'd prefer a headquarters hotel over another revived big-ticket project, a Sustainability Center. And he told The Portland Tribune last month he was "generally supportive" but had reservations about the details of the plan.

He now says he expects convention business to recede nationally—but Portland could buck the trend.

"Portland is a great destination," Hales says. "We're exceptional. I wouldn't bet on conventions nationally growing. But I think our market share will still grow. Because we're a great place. Look at the New York Times every other day." 

Hales tells WW he's still cracking "a very fat notebook" provided by Metro on the proposal. And he could change his mind.

"I'm going to continue to to exercise the prerogative to speak my mind," Hales says, "even when it's not made up."

 
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