December 18th, 2008 5:33 pm | by NIGEL JAQUISS News | Posted In: Politics

Still On Life-Support: Metro Punts on HQ Hotel


Metro was scheduled to vote on whether to move forward with the long-planned but never built "headquarters hotel" today. Tourism boosters continue to cling to hopes of finding a way to finance a 600-room hotel adjacent to the Metro-owned Oregon Convention Center. But instead of the council addressing the issue, Metro Chief Operating Officer Michael Jordan booted the decision four months into the future.

That move wasn't entirely surprising given Mayor-elect Sam Adams' recently expressed interest in keeping the project, now nearly 20 years in the planning alive. Like the NBA's Memphis Grizzlies' recent signing of former TrailBlazer bad-boy Darius Miles, Metro's latest non-decision decision seems like the triumph of hope over experience.

Below is the release Metro issued a few minutes ago. With all due respect to the agency's hardworking communications staff, my favorite sentence is this one: "In the event that the municipal bond market corrects itself with favorable interest rates, a financing plan with current available resources may be conceivably identified." And after a career of being an under-achieving malcontent, Darius Miles may turn into Michael Jordan.

Metro extends existing contract with developers based on support

Metro Chief Operating Officer Michael Jordan has extended the contract of the Oregon Convention Center Headquarters Hotel project development team an additional four months. By signing the extension, Metro has authorized the existing contract of the Garfield Traub/Ashforth Pacific team that has been working on the project's development documents and budget.

“The headquarters hotel project would directly create thousands of new construction jobs, more than 800 permanent hospitality industry jobs and more than 100 million dollars of economic benefit to the region each year,” said Rod Park, Metro Councilor and project liaison for the Metro Council. “This extension allows Metro, the City of Portland and our other partners to determine if there is a feasible way to achieve those outcomes and associated timeline.”

According to national convention planners, a headquarters hotel is vital to enable this region to successfully attract large-scale national business in the highly competitive convention industry. Studies show if a 600-room headquarters hotel was constructed, the Oregon Convention Center would gain eight new large-scale national conventions a year, representing approximately $118.6 million of annual visitor spending into the region.

“We have worked diligently with the development team, the Metropolitan Exposition and Recreation Commission and other partners over the past two years to develop a project that justifies public investment and provides returns to the regional economy while protecting the interests of the taxpaying public,” added Metro Councilor Rex Burkholder.

Under the financing plan Metro has developed, convention attendees will pay for the headquarters hotel. The hotel tax they pay, combined with the net income from hotel operation, will cover the cost of publicly issued bonds to pay for construction of the hotel. No tax increase is being considered.

In the event that the municipal bond market corrects itself with favorable interest rates, a financing plan with current available resources may be conceivably identified.
The project design and initial construction budget estimate provided by the project development team has been reduced by $10 million. These numbers reflect the good-faith efforts of both Metro and the project team to lower the costs in order get the most out of every facet of the project budget. This brings the current construction cost estimate – which is not final– to $205 million.

I'll find out tomorrow what this four-month reprieve will cost: a couple of weeks ago Metro was saying that it needed $11 million to move to the next stage of design drawings, an intermediate step to getting a hard cost estimate.

Miles photo courtesy
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