‘Build it for the Children’ and Other Highlights from the Convention Center Hotel Hearing
"I want you to imagine a District of Columbia without a Verizon Center and a Convention Center," stated Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans. "It would probably look like Detroit."
"We are now spending records amounts of money in our school system. We are spending record amounts in our human services system. Those record amounts of money are generated in economic development,” Evans stated.
These comments came midway through today's hearing on the convention center hotel, a long-stalled project which was kicked into gear again earlier this month.
The success of the convention center and the city's tourist industry, according to various DC officials and business leaders, rests on the completion of this 1,170-room Marriott, which would have 100,000 square feet of meeting space. Shaw locals that testified about the project seemed pretty jazzed about the retail/restaurant possibilities for the neighborhood as well.
The question, of course, is financing and just how much of it the District is willing to put forth (and then we're back to the whole Nats Park discussion again.)
When the hotel idea was first revived, the city was considering issuing $750 million in bonds to help fund the project, breaking the city’s bond cap, and possibly pulling subsidies from some other projects. Then, last week, the Washington Business Journal reported that the developers had found a way to possibly raise their equity participation.
Here's the latest plan, according to Chief Financial Officer Nat Gandhi's testimony:
"The proposed financing plan includes funding for $537 million project costs. About $331 million, or 62 percent of the funding will come from private sources and $206 million or 38 percent from the [Washington Convention Center Authority]" That 206 million is a combination of 50 million in WCCA investment, 22 million in District/WCCA lease secured debt, and 134 million in TIF-secured debt."
The discussion—the parts I saw earlier on—about the hotel mainly centered around all its benefits to Shaw, to boosting tax dollars, and how it would augment convention business, in general. And then, there was Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells, who wondered several times if a big designated convention center hotel was really all that necessary. After all, San Francisco doesn't have one, he stated.
Plus, said Wells, "Some of the areas with large convention centers and hotels, when they’re not busy, they’re the 'deadest parts' of town."
Next up for the convention center hotel bill: This Friday, Kwame Brown's Committee on Economic Development will convene a special meeting and mark-up of certain bills and proposed resolutions at 4:00 p.m., Room 120.