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DENVER-Developers Bruce and Seth Berger met a city-imposed deadline to submit a letter of intent for a hotelier for a proposed $217-million, 1,100-room facility on property across from the Colorado Convention Center. In fact, they submitted two letters–one from Sheraton and another from Hyatt Regency.

The team had until Friday to show progress on the development plan. “I think that is very good news,” says Tracy Huggins, executive director of the Denver Urban Renewal Authority, which plans to supply a $55.35 million subsidy for the hotel. The hotel is needed for the $268 million doubling of the Colorado Convention Center, which taxpayers agreed to pay for in a referendum last November. Huggins says the hotel decision rests with the Bergers. “We have performed an analysis that shows either one would be a high-quality operator and they both are acceptable to the city,” Huggins says.

For the past 14 months, the Bergers had been negotiating with Marriott Corp., but that deal reportedly unraveled because Marriott had refused to comply with a city mandate to use union workers.

The Bergers now have until Jan. 15 to seal a management agreement with a hotel operator. “The Bergers have conveyed they are very far down the road negotiating with both hotel chains, and they are confident they could have a management agreement much sooner–by Nov. 15,” Huggins says.

Denver hospitality expert John Montgomery says Hyatt has long wanted to have a more prominent Downtown hotel than its 1750 Welton St. facility. “They have always felt that they could make a bigger play in Denver,” says Montgomery, president of Horwath Horizon Hospitality Consulting/Montgomery & Associates.

Either hotel chain would be excellent, says Montgomery. Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide International owns Sheraton and Westin brands. He says its possible Starwood, if selected, would opt to fly the Westin flag at the new hotel and convert the CBD’s Tabor Center Westin into a Sheraton.

“I think the Hyatt is considered a titch more upscale than a Sheraton, but not by a significant amount,” Montgomery says. “And in some cities, Sheraton is the dominant hotel. I think the hotel itself, not so much the operator, will drive room rates.”

Both chains, he explains, are leaders in the convention center business. The deal could mark the first Downtown Sheraton in Denver’s history. “I know I have worked with them since as far back as 1990 on trying to do a deal in Downtown,” Montgomery says.

City officials Annie Warhover, president of the Downtown Denver Partnership, and Wayne Cauthen, chief of staff for Mayor Wellington Webb, concur that the promise of delivering a signed management deal two months in advance of the next deadline are welcome signs after recent delays.

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