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Full Speed Ahead: Council Hoping to Get Dirt Flying on Hotel By April

As the mayor and city council keep marching forward with the convention center hotel project despite an upcoming vote in May -- and it’s safe to assume the anti-hotel folks wouldn’t have turned in the petitions so early if they weren’t 100 percent sure that at least 20,000 would be verified -- the Economic Development Committee is meeting right now to digest a lengthy PowerPoint presentation that will attempt to lull committee members into a zombie-like state before getting to the juicy stuff. Turns out, it’s time to spend some more dough in order to get the dirt flyin’ in April.

April, huh? Yup, Mayor Tom is gonna make damned sure that this project is underway before the vote. And they only way this can happen is if the council moves forward to the next design phase, which will cost $4.6 million. Of course, this is in addition to the $4.4 million approved September 10 by the council for the pre-development of the project, and then there’s that $42 million that was already spent on the land acquisition.

City staff will argue that the April time frame represents the earliest date that construction can begin, and the quicker the hotel is completed, the less capitalized interest will be necessary. At this point, the committee members will have completely zoned out, but it’s actually a solid point -- if only it was related to a project that wasn’t problematic and facing a referendum.

You see, capitalized interest refers to the amount of money the city has to pay back on the bonds before the hotel opens. Since the bonds will be secured by revenue from the hotel and it produces no revenue until it opens, these payments cover the debt until the doors open. Once the bonds are sold in January, the city will burn $2.6 million each month the sucker is under construction.

The committee will also be briefed on the final stages of the process: An operator will be chosen at the October 20 committee meeting, and they are still toying with exactly how many rooms the hotel will have. Also, the city is working on its development agreement with Matthews Southwest, while attempting to “incorporate as many signature features in the basic hotel program as the budget will allow.”

On page 45, the phrase “bond markets currently in flux” appears with no supplemental information, but no one on the committee is likely to have the balls to pry into that one. So, like the sheep they’ve been, the committee will vote to put the $4.6 million expenditure on the October 22 council agenda for final approval.

In other hotel news, Citizens Against the Taxpayer-Owned Hotel consultant Brooks Love fired off a missive to Erle Nye and Laura Reed of the Build the Hotel camp. As a result of an inquiry by Unfair Park into a violation of the Texas Ethics Code, the pro-hotel campaign was forced to start a new political action committee, which it did on October 9. But Love warns them against transferring any funds between the old and new PACs, and he calls upon the pro-hotel peeps to stop spending money out of the original PAC and take down the Build the Hotel Web site, among other requests.

And for those in need of some early encouragement to attend Wednesday’s council meeting, look no further than this e-mail sent out by Phillip Jones, president and CEO of the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau. It's below. --Sam Merten

Dear Hotel General Managers:

Tomorrow morning, the City of Dallas economic development committee will be briefed on the status of the planned convention center hotel. ext Wednesday (October 22), the full council is expected to discuss the same issue.

We have received verbal support from many of our member hotels and we now ask for your hotel's endorsement in writing as soon as possible by filling out the endorsement survey online and indicating your hotel's support and your permission to use your hotel's name in upcoming press releases, on the Build the Hotel website and in other communication.

We -- and most council members, hotels and civic and business organizations -- are convinced the hotel will be an economic generator for the city for years to come. What's more, it will enable our city to attract conventions that require a convention center hotel as a prerequisite for consideration. The bottom line: new citywide conventions that will fill hotels throughout the city.

Please contact me with any questions and respond as quickly as possible to this request by completing the endorsement survey. Thank you for your support, and we hope to see you at the October 22 City Council meeting!

Warmest regards,

Phillip Jones President/CEO

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