Downtown Ft. Collins Hotel Project on Hold
A hotel and conference center apparently won’t be built in downtown Fort Collins -- at least not with city support -- anytime soon. KUNC’s Erin O’Toole talks with Northern Colorado Business Report publisher Jeff Nuttall about what this may mean for the city’s economic development efforts.
O’Toole: Jeff, the proposed conference center has been on the agenda for a while, but now the city is backing away from the project. What’s going on here?
Nuttall:What the city is backing away from, Erin, is any public/private partnership to develop a downtown hotel. The city council’s finance and audit committee — Mayor Karen Weitkunat, Mayor Pro Tem Kelly Ohlson and Councilman Ben Manvel — decided unanimously on July 18 not to issue a Request for Proposal from potential hotel development partners.
O’Toole: Why did they decide to do this now?
Nuttall:The mayor said the timing for going forward with a downtown hotel was not right. Manvel told us that with the down economy, such an investment by the city would not be appropriate, and maybe the time was right to let capitalism do it without government assistance.
O’Toole: So what will that mean in terms of getting a project like this off the ground?
Nuttall:As Manvel said, it’s pretty much dead in the water for now. Even back before the recession, and when the city had a tentative contract with Corporex, it was obvious that few developers are willing to build a facility of the size and scope sought by the Fort Collins Downtown Development Authority without help.
O’Toole: What is the DDA looking for?
Nuttall:The latest plan calls for a branded, full-service, upscale hotel with a significant amount of meeting space. A year ago, the DDA was still looking for a site for a hotel of that size, and considering the ramifications of building it without the conference space.
O’Toole: And how has the DDA reacted to the finance committee’s action?
Nuttall:Director Matt Robenalt is scheduled to present the decision to the DDA board later today. He said that the downtown hotel concept as it now stands depends entirely on city and DDA involvement, so the board will be discussing when it might be the right time to bring the project forward again.
O’Toole: Does anyone have any idea when that might be?
Nuttall: Ben Manvel suggested maybe in three or four years, but by then, who knows what the economic landscape will look like. Remember, to raise the funds for any kind of partnership, the city would have to issue bonds, and that kind of commitment sounds pretty risky right now. And eventually the Mason Corridor could be linking hotels outside the downtown area with Old Town so well that a new facility might not be as necessary.
O’Toole: Well - is this just another way of saying that downtown Fort Collins doesn’t really need a new hotel?
Nuttall:I don’t think so, Erin. The project has been a priority for the DDA for more than two decades, and everyone we spoke to at the city said they support the concept of a downtown hotel and what it can do for Fort Collins. I think that the city would be ready to assist a private developer with needs like parking, but right now, they’re saying it’s time for private business to finance private business.