Proposal now calls for mostly private project

The Metro Council will consider asking private developers to submit proposals to build a 500-room hotel adjacent to the Oregon Convention Center at Thursday's meeting.

The council had previously considered but rejected a proposal to build a publicly-owned 600-room hotel on two blocks owned by the Portland Development Commission across the street from the center, which is located at 700 N.E. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.

The ordinance to be considered Thursday would ask developers to submit proposals to build the hotel on any number of properties adjacent to the center, including the PDC-owned block and a number of privately-owned blocks in the immediate area.

The developers would also be asked to request what public subsidies they would require for the project, if any. Possibilities discussed in the past range from the donation of the PDC-owned blocks to a waiver of the hotel and motel taxes collected by the City of Portland and Multnomah County.

A staff report about the ordinance says the hotel is needed to boost business at the center, which Metro owns. According to the report, in 2011 alone, 30 convention and meeting planners cited the lack of such a hotel as the primary reason for choosing other cities over Portland.

The report includes a project schedule that includes the selection of a development team in July 2012, the approval of financing agreements in December 2012, the start of construction in November 2013 and the opening of the hotel in the Summer of 2015.

Some existing private hotel owners in Portland have opposed the project in the past because of the potential competition and extensive public subsidies. It is unclear whether they would oppose a project that is largely privately funded.

The hotel would be expected to include a number of special features, included additional meeting rooms and restaurants. Such hotels are called Headquarter Hotels within the convention business.

The previous project had been supported by Mayor Sam Adams but opposed by former Multnomah County Chair Ted Wheeler. The discussions were restarted after Tom Hughes was elected Metro President and Jeff Cogen replaced Wheeler.

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