Saturday, February 06, 1999

New inn on Fifth endorsed

City now supports a Hampton

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A new Hampton Inn could open downtown by spring of 2001 under a proposal that Cincinnati Economic Development Director Andi Udris will present to city council members Monday.

        Part of the 150-170 room hotel would be built on top of the struggling Convention Place Mall at Fifth and Elm streets. The hotel's entrance would be adjacent to the mall across from the Albert B. Sabin Convention Center.

        In September, Mr. Udris opposed the $11.3 million project, saying “the marketplace would not benefit from the project at this time.”

        But in a report to council earlier this week, Mr. Udris recommended letting developers BriLyn Corp. and Rookwood Properties proceed.

        Mr. Udris said Friday he changed his mind based on a study by U.S. Realty Consultants of Columbus, which showed that a new Hampton Inn would not take much business from downtown's existing hotels.

        In fact, he said a downtown Hampton Inn would take business from similar hotels in Northern Kentucky, increasing downtown's overall share of the hotel business.

        “When I weighed all the positives with all the negatives, the scale tips slightly in favor of the project,” he said.

        But Jean-Marc Dizard, general manager of the Hyatt Regency Cincinnati and president of the Greater Cincinnati Hotel-Motel Association, argues it doesn't make sense to build a Hampton Inn when hotels downtown are struggling as it


        “The city at this time doesn't have demand. Most hotels are running dangerous occupancies to be profitable,” he said. “To add supply to no demand doesn't make sense.”

        Mr. Dizard argues the timing would be better after a proposed expansion of the convention center.

        That proposal aims to more than double exhibit space at the convention center, triple meeting space and attract more big-spending conventioneers to Cincinnati. Details of the proposed expansion are to be unveiled later this month.

        But Mr. Udris argues a Hampton Inn will be able to draw families and value-minded business travelers who don't want to pay the rates that full-service hotels like the Hyatt command.

        “I need someone who will answer the phone and say, "Yes, we have rooms for $80 a night,'” he said.

        A Hampton Inn also would help the struggling Convention Place Mall and help revitalize all of Fifth Street, Mr. Udris said.

        Mr. Udris plans to present his report to council's Community Development Committee on Monday afternoon. He expects support for the project because council urged him in September to reconsider his opposition.

        Under the proposed finance plan, developers would pay $9.7 million of the Hampton Inn project's cost.

        The city would make a no-interest, 30-month loan of $7 million. That loan would generate interest savings of $533,000 to pay for some public improvements necessary to complete the project.

        The city also would contribute $1.1 million in taxes generated by the project. That money would be used to build a skywalk through the hotel and reconstruct an entry to the parking garage that would have to be replaced.

        Developers would pay about $150,000 a year for 30 years to lease the space. The project would generate the equivalent of 60 full-time jobs and generate $22,680 in income tax revenues each year for the city, according to Cincinnati Economic Development Director Andi Udris' report.


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