January 8, 2013  3:42 PM

Convention center hotel advocates could ask Legislature for financing help

OCC Hotel B

A rendering of one of four proposals by Mortenson Development. This proposal calls for one large hotel to be built north of the Oregon Convention Center.

Proponents of a planned hotel near the Oregon Convention Center are eyeing the Oregon Lottery as a possible source of public money for the project.

Staffers negotiating with the proposed hotel's developers said they think the state could play a role in helping to pay for the hotel, pointing to the statewide economic impacts of conventions in Portland.

Once negotiations for the hotel's financing carried into 2013, the idea for asking for state help in funding the project became more feasible, said Teri Dresler, Metro's director of visitor venues.

"We want to pursue whether there is another option available to us," she said. "The project clearly meets criteria for state funding in terms of statewide impact in terms of collection of income taxes from the jobs created… throughout the hospitality industry."

The memo says the hotel would generate $180 million in state taxes in the next 30 years.

Read the excerpt from the Jan. 8 work session packet (PDF)

One memo from Dresler's department calls for the Legislature to set aside $15 million for the public financing package for the proposed 600-room hotel near the Oregon Convention Center.

"We don't know whether that would be a loan or a grant," Dresler said.

Combined with $4 million each from Metro and the Portland Development Commission, that would amount to $23 million in upfront public money to support the planned hotel. But Dresler stressed that negotiations are ongoing and expected to take months, and there is no agreement yet on what the upfront requirement would be to move the project forward.

The hotel's owner, Hyatt, is also calling for a refund of most of the room taxes paid by hotel guests, a number that could total $111 million.

In turn, Hyatt would guarantee a block of rooms would remain available for large conventions looking to hold events in Portland.

In the memo, Metro staff pointed to precedent. In 1987, the Legislature authorized an inflation-adjusted $30.4 million of lottery money for the construction of the convention center.

According to Oregon Lottery spokeswoman Marlene Meissner, the Legislature authorized $275 million in economic development spending from the lottery in this biennial budget. The largest chunk of that, about $79 million, went to debt service.

That amounted to 25 percent of lottery proceeds in the biennium, but that percentage is adjusted by the Legislature every two years.

Metro News editor Nick Christensen can be reached atnick.christensen@oregonmetro.gov or 503-813-7583. Follow Metro on Twitter @oregonmetro.

See also:

Negotiations over hotel subsidy continue as consultant report touts benefits to region (Dec. 4, 2012)

Oregon Convention Center hotel votes pushed back to 2013 (Nov. 29, 2012)
Union, developers reach labor agreement on convention center hotel; more negotiations ahead on project (Nov. 1, 2012)

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