Sounds like the first shot over the bow on the city-subsidized convention center has been fired over the Mayor Tom Leppert’s bow: Harland Crow (yes, that Crow family), who is chairman of the company that owns the Hilton Anatole Hotel near downtown, wrote a letter to Leppert calling the city’s plan for the 1,000-room hotel "the height of folly." Read Crow’s letter and the DMN story by clicking here.
Three things on this issue:
1) The city is talking about spending $100 million-plus on a hotel that we likely will own and operate, and the city will probably (if Mr. Crow is to be believed) "lose their shirt on this deal." So why doesn’t anyone except policy wonks and hopeful development partners seem to care even the slightest about this deal?
2) Crow’s letter gets to the most significant problem with the deal as it is likely to be structured: The city probably will own the hotel and pay someone else to build it and manage it, effectively placing the city in the position of hotel owner competing against private sector hotels like Crow’s. So the city winds up using tax money from hotels like Crow’s to compete against the very people paying the taxes. If a deal like this won’t stand on its own financial feet, does the city need to forge ahead and do it anyway?
3) I drove by the anointed location on the way back from Saturday’s DISD mock trial competition, and it’s a pretty good site right next to the convention center. But as I mentioned in an earlier post, there’s just one problem (Mr. Crow and I seem to agree here, too): There’s absolutely nothing around the prospective hotel site to do other than take pictures with the sculpted cattle donated by the Crow family just outside the convention center. The nearest "fun" post-convention-day activity is probably, at best, five to six blocks away, and that’s a basic restaurant/bar or two downtown. Just about all of the land surrounding this hotel site is already built-out (federal buildings, two DMN buildings, a couple of cement-oriented parks and city hall and the downtown library), so there’s no chance of a Victory-like development here.
We need a hotel attached to the convention center, for competitive reasons alone. I’m just not sure why it was so essential to plunk down $500,000 in non-refundable money to option an overpriced piece of land that didn’t seem to be in great demand from anyone else. What’s going on here that I’m missing? Or where’s the supporting documentation showing that this location with this plan at this time is the absolute best and only way to go?