On the Town

If you've been reading the Portland Tribune lately, you already know that everybody's favorite regional governmental agency, Metro, is just itching to get into the hotel business.

To be specific, it wants to build one - at some public expense, of course - across from the Oregon Convention Center on MLK.

And why would they want to do such thing?

Well, because the convention center - which, of course, also is owned and operated by Metro - hasn't been doing too well lately.

Or, to be perfectly honest about it, from the time it opened in 1990, the convention center was usually as empty as the mummy's tomb.

As you might expect, however, it didn't take long for the same farsighted planners who built the thing in the first place to identify the problem and come up with a solution.

The problem, of course, was that the convention center wasn't big enough. All the big conventions - which, after all, is what Metro is shooting for - were bypassing Portland and going to cities that had bigger convention centers.

And the solution, of course, was to build an even bigger convention center - twice as big, as a matter of fact. Pretty soon, the reasoning went, all those conventioneers would be flocking to the Rose City.


Well, as you probably know already - if only from reading the public statements of Metro officials - it just hasn't worked out that way.

If anything, the echoes in the mummy's tomb are twice as loud as ever. The place is losing about $300,000 a year - and with no money set aside for routine maintenance, it's beginning to look a little bedraggled.

But never fear, because the same geniuses who brought you convention centers I and II have come up with still another plan.

To hear them tell it, the reason the convention center is a little empty these days is that there's no proper hotel for the conventioneers to stay in.

Never mind that there are any number of fine hotels in downtown Portland, just a few minutes away by bus or cab or - how could we ever forget - MAX.


They say they need a hotel on MLK, right across from the convention center. The current plan is for one with 600 rooms - although, curiously enough, the big conventions that the Metro crowd covets are in the 1,700-member range.

And, of course, they expect the public to underwrite their latest effort as well.

In fact, if all goes according to plan, the city will donate the land, valued at $12 million, plus several million in cash - and the rest will be financed by issuing bonds, which the people behind this scheme say will be paid off by room taxes on guests at the new hotel.

Or, if you believe these geniuses - who, let's face it, haven't had all that good a record to date - the whole thing will pay for itself.

On the other hand, what if these guys don't know what they're talking about this time any more than they did the last two times around?

What happens if the people who schedule the big conventions aren't as charmed as they're supposed to be by the prospect of staying at a perfectly ordinary hotel on MLK?

Three guesses who's going to be left holding the bag this time - and you've already had two.

Contact Phil Stanford by phone, 503-546-5166, or by e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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