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McClatchy-Tribune  06/09/2014 11:25 PM ET
Convention center hotel: Metro ready to present development agreement [The Oregonian, Portland, Ore. :: ]

June 09--Metro plans to present details of an agreement to build a hotel near the Oregon Convention Center on Thursday after more than a year of negotiations.

The regional government has been in talks with a development team led by Mortenson Co. of Minneapolis and Hyatt Hotels Corp. The Metro Council could vote on a development agreement by June 26.

Metro wants a 600-room, privately owned hotel near its convention center to help attract out-of-town events and the tourism dollars they bring. Metro says it needs a hotel big enough and willing to reserve a 500-room block for conventions to compete with other destinations.

It's offered a package of subsidies to land the project after previous aborted attempts. It previously outlined the broad strokes of the deal, including a $18 million in direct subsidies through loans and grants, as well as $60 million Metro-issued bonds to be paid off with taxes the hotel is expected to generate.

The developers would come up with the remaining $120 million of the $198 million project. Hyatt says it will buy the hotel from Mortenson upon completion and operate it as a Hyatt Regency.

The subsidies have proven controversial. A coalition of hotel owners -- including the downtown Hilton and the Provenance Group of hotels -- has opposed a boost for a new competitor, saying it could undercut the market.

Metro says the benefits of more large conventions would spill over to other Portland hotels.

Metro and Multnomah County successfully blocked a petition to put the hotel's proposed financing on the ballot, though opponents have appealed the Multnomah Circuit Court decision. The opponents have also filed a lawsuit in Clackamas County Circuit Court challenging Metro's authority under state law to build anything without a public vote.

For its part, Metro has filed for a judicial review of its plan in Multnomah Circuit Court to reassure potential investors the project will move forward.

Despite the legal crossfire, Metro has said it plans to continue apace on the project, which is already well behind the schedule originally laid out. Construction could begin early next year.

Metro says it plans to release details of its plan at the Metro Council meeting on Thursday. The final development agreement would be released next week, with a public hearing set for the council meeting on Thursday, June 19. The council would vote on Thursday, June 26.

The Metro Council meets at 2 p.m. Thursdays at Metro's offices, 600 N.E. Grand Ave. in Portland.

-- Elliot Njus


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