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VANCOUVER, WA-Plans are firming up for a new hotel and conference center in Downtown Vancouver.

The City of Vancouver this week chose the Port of Vancouver’s proposal to replace the 150-room Inn at the Quay on the Columbia River with a 300- to 350-room hotel and build the convention center on the other side of the railroad tracks in the Esther Short Park area of Downtown Vancouver, as previously planned.

The city’s public facilities district would develop the convention center at 6th and Columbia and operate it as well. The 60,000-sf to 80,000-sf convention center would cost around $20 million to develop and include between 30,000 sf and 40,000 sf of meeting space. The main hall would seat 1,100.

Either the PFD or a private non-profit entity would build the hotel, says city official Steve Burdick. It would be located further away from the water than the existing hotel, to avoid more stringent shoreline development regulations, and further east to place it as far away as possible from any additional bridges that might eventually span the Columbia, says Burdick. The hotel would cost between $37.5 million and $52.5 million to develop, depending on its size and the type of finish materials.

Both the hotel and the conference center would be operated by West Coast Hotels, which holds a long-term lease to operate the Inn at the Quay property. The two facilities would be separated by railroad tracks but connected via a sky bridge or a tunnel, says Burdick. “If we go under the tracks, the concept would be roughly similar to an airport concourse,” he says, “with stuff on the walls to look at and a moving sidewalk.”

Burdick says the city has asked the Port to take on developing the connection, as otherwise it would have to come out of the $20-million construction budget for the conference center, which would mean the size of the conference center would have to shrink again. The budget for the center dropped from closer to $24 million earlier this year after no bids were received for naming rights to the facility.

Construction debt and ongoing operation of the convention center, which is expected to run at a deficit, will be covered by several revenue sources, including the district’s .033 percent sales tax rebate ($700,000 a year), a 2% Vancouver hotel-motel tax (estimated $360,000 a year) and $500,000 annually from the Clark County Public Facilities District.

Speaking of construction, there’s some uncertainty about who will be the general contractor for the project. Burdick says the PFD, way back when a sports stadium, not a hotel, was still included in the proposal, chose PCL Construction through a competitive process. “Now the question is if you drop a sports stadium and add a hotel, can you keep the same company?” says Burdick, adding that whether the PFD or a private non-profit develop the project will also make a difference in the matter. “If it’s the PFD, we are subject to state requirements on selecting contractors,” he continues, “If it’s a 501(C) 3, that’s a private entity that would not be subject to those requirements. My next task is to sit down and go through it all.”

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