Proposal for Salt Lake City convention center hotel attracts developers, construction firms

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SALT LAKE CITY — Local firms and major real estate companies are among half a dozen developers interested in building a large convention hotel in the heart of Salt Lake City, a project that comes with $75 million in possible tax credits.

About 60 representatives of real estate developers, architects, construction firms and more attended a recent Salt Lake County meeting about the project, according to county records.

Of those, eight attendees indicated that their firms may submit an application with the county to develop the long-awaited hotel.

The project, estimated at $300 million, would provide needed hotel rooms and is key to the state's convention business, Utah leaders say. Any proposed hotel must be within 1,000 feet of the Salt Palace Convention Center and feature 800 to 1,000 rooms and meeting space.

Sharon Pierce, with Salt Lake County's contracts and procurement division, said no bid applications had been submitted as of late Friday afternoon. Pierce said she expects bids to come in closer to the Oct. 24 deadline.

Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams said he's pleased with the early interest.

"The hope is that this private hotel will bring additional conventions to Salt Lake," McAdams said. "We're getting inquiries already from conventions who have previously passed us over and are now giving us a second look."

One interested developer is Atlanta-based Portman Holdings, which has developed hotels on a similar scale in San Diego, Atlanta and Charlotte, North Carolina.

John Portman IV, a vice president of capital markets, told The Associated Press on Friday that his firm is considering submitting a bid. If selected, they could partner with a major hotel company such as Hilton, Marriott or Starwood, which includes hotel brands such as St. Regis and Sheraton, he said.

"I think there's six or seven that you want to probably look at for something of this size, that have this unique experience in managing all this meeting space and liaising with a major convention center," Portman said.

The Salt Lake City project would be the company's first foray into Utah, as it would be for another interested developer, Omni Hotels & Resorts.

Dallas-based Omni has developed comparable hotels of 600 and 800 rooms in Fort Worth, Texas, and Nashville, Tennessee, in recent years.

Charlie Muller, an acquisitions and development consultant with Omni, said the company will "definitely" submit a proposal.

"We're excited about the opportunity, certainly, and we think that the stakeholders — the county, the city and the state — have a well-thought-out plan to provide support to this development process," Muller said.

State and local leaders say the project is needed to keep and attract conventions in Salt Lake City, including the world's largest outdoor-gear trade show. The Outdoor Retailer expo packs the downtown convention center with 20,000 people twice a year, and has committed to stay in Salt Lake City through 2016.

But organizers have warned they will move if they don't get more hotel space soon.

Salt Lake County officials say about 30 other conventions have passed over Salt Lake City because of inadequate hotel space.

To receive the tax credits, the new convention hotel must increase state and local tax sales revenues in the years after it opens. Lawmakers also created a $2.1 million lifeline for existing hotels if they experience vacancies once the new hotel appears on the market.

After the bid deadline, the county will create a shortlist and select a developer by the end of the year.

The next step would be choosing a site, acquiring the land and designing the hotel.


Follow Michelle L. Price at https://twitter.com/michellelprice .

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