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PORTLAND-After 10 meetings over seven months, the Headquarters Hotel Evaluation Committee is recommending the development team of locally based Ashforth Pacific Inc. and Dallas based Garfield Traub Development be chosen as the preferred developer for a convention-focused hotel across from the recently expanded Oregon Convention Center in the Lloyd District. The Portland Development Commission, the city’s urban renewal agency, is expected to vote on a preferred developer in mid October following three public meetings on the topic, the first of which will be held Sept. 14.

The Ashforth Pacific/Garfield Traub team’s $144-million proposal utilizes public financing and the city-assembled and owned land directly across from the Convention Center. The team envisions a 23-floor Westin hotel fronting Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. that is transparent on three levels to expose the hotel’s activity to the Convention Center and the street. The project includes a light glass canopy covering a plaza at the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. and Holladay St. The plaza space could be closed for the use of the OCC, and when not in use it could be open public space with seasonal retail activity.

Ashforth Pacific is a real estate owner and developer that owns most of the office buildings and developable land in Portland’s Lloyd District, including a full block immediately east of the two PDC blocks. According to its proposal, that block would hold the parking for the development as well as street-level retail and a residential tower.

Garfield Traub has financed more than 100 hotels, resorts and conferencing facilities and has experience in both public sector and private sector financing. Recent projects include the Sheraton Convention Center Hotel in Overland Park, KS, and the Doubletree Hotel and Conference Center in Bay City, MI. The firm has been selected to develop a $175 million headquarters hotel and mixed-use development to anchor the new 580,000-sf convention center in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The other development teams still in the running for the work are Jones Lang LaSalle and BPM Development; Hines Interests and Wright Hotels; and Faulkner USA. In recommending the Ashforth Pacific/Garfield Traub team, the evaluation committee listed several reasons for its decision, including the team members’ substantial experience in the development of hotel properties and in real estate financing; the experience, depth and name recognition of the Westin hotel brand; clear articulation of the financial challenges and options for both public and private financial models; thoroughness and quality of the financial analysis and business plan, and; a commitment of equity to the project.

Not yet known is the mix of public and private money that will be necessary for Ashforth’s revised proposal or any of the others’ to pencil. In backing the public financing option, Ashforth says public ownership would give the city the “opportunity to be the beneficiary of future cash flow from the hotel as well as the hotel’s residual value in return for its investment.”

The development teams responded in December to a request for proposals sent out by the city exactly one year ago. The request called for proposals for developing and financing a minimum of 600 rooms in the first phase and 800 rooms in total. The developers submitted proposals for hotels ranging in cost from $180 million to $237 million, all of which call for tens of millions in public subsidy. After seven meetings through the first four months of the year, the evaluation was ready to make its recommendation as scheduled on May 25, but the PDC was not ready to hear it.

A few days before the scheduled recommendation, the PDC pushed it back 30 days, saying it would allow additional time for consideration of the proposals by the evaluation committee “and additional discussion with project stakeholders about the size and financing of the project.” According to insiders, local hoteliers had hired a lobbyist and were threatening to come out in organized opposition to the project if the hotel’s size did not shrink, and there were concerns that the amount of public subsidy necessary to develop the larger hotel may not be achievable.

Thirty days later, the recommendation was delayed again, this time so the PDC could ask developers to submit an addendum to their proposals detailing how financing would work for developing a 400-room hotel in the first phase. The evaluation committee’s Wednesday recommendation follows the submittal and evaluation of those addendums.

The hotel owners–who right now benefit greatly when a convention comes to town because there is no convention hotel–say they are worried that a large, publicly financed convention hotel would not only dissolve their convention-related business but undercut them on price when conventioneers aren’t filling the hotel.

Those in support of the headquarters hotel project say the lack of a large hotel next to the convention center, which is across the Willamette River from Downtown, is the top reason the larger and higher profile conventions bypass Portland for other convention cities. Moreover, they say developing a hotel of less than 500 rooms won’t make a difference because large convention planners require that a convention hotel be able to block out a minimum of 500 rooms.

By not having a headquarters hotel, research by the Portland Oregon Visitors Association indicates the city is missing out on an additional $180 million of economic impact–impact that proponents say would spill over to the Downtown hotel owners because the larger conventions generate anywhere from 1,500 to 2,500 room nights while the conventions that come through town now generate significantly fewer room nights.

For previous stories on the convention center hotel, click on one of the following headlines:

  • GlobeSt.com UPDATE: Revised HQ Hotel Proposals Due in August
  • GlobeSt.com UPDATE: PDC Again Delays HQ Hotel Decision
  • GlobeSt.com UPDATE: PDC Delays Headquarters Hotel Decision
  • GlobeSt.com UPDATE: City Takes Possession of Menashe Property
  • GlobeSt.com UPDATE: City Releases Full Hotel Proposals
  • PDC Delays Release of Hotel Proposals
  • PDC Files Suit to Take Menashe Property
  • RFQ Out for $150M Headquarters Hotel
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