New convention hotel in Tucson's future

New convention hotel in Tucson's future

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Caliber Hospitality, LLC, a wealth development company based in Scottsdale, presented its plans for a convention hotel at the Tucson Convention Center to the Rio Nuevo Board on Tuesday, Feb. 28.

If approved, it will be built on the east side of the TCC on which is now a large parking lot. It would be a 125-room hotel, which does not have a national brand name right now.

The price for a night's stay would be about $125, which is within the price range for other downtown hotels, such as the new AC Marriott, scheduled to open in August.

It's a far cry from the Sheraton Hotel which was proposed for the convention center seven years ago that would have been 325 rooms costing nearly $200 a night.

The entire project would have cost nearly $200 million but included a new convention center and parking structures.

Because the new convention center hotel will be built with private money and not taxpayer dollars it is given a bigger chance of success.

"Seven years ago we were having this conversation where the city was going to completely backstop the bonding, the loans," said Ward VI city council member Steve Kozachik. "This is private sector money."

At the time, Kozachik led the charge against the Sheraton, which was rejected by the council.

Parking is an issue in this proposal that still needs to be decided.

The east side of the TCC is a very large parking lot for which the city of Tucson charges $6 to $8 a space, depending on time of day and type of event. The city would lose the revenue generated by those spaces.

"We are struggling a little bit with the parking piece," board member Mark Irwin told the Caliber representatives.

Until there is some agreement on the part of the city, parking could remain an issue. However, Kozachik believes the city is willing to talk.

"If we've got the potential for a convention hotel and we let that fall off the table because of parking, we have successfully allowed the tail to wag the dog," he said.

Rio Nuevo will negotiate with the city for a solution to the parking issue, such as a joint venture on a parking garage.

A new garage can cost from $15,000 to $20,000 per space according to Rio Nuevo Board Chair Fletcher McCusker.

There seems to be some optimism that the time has come for a convention center hotel.

"This is totally doable," Kozachik said. You just put some creative minds together, you can build a hotel, fund it with private dollars and build a structural parking lot. You gain spaces and everybody wins."

Rio Nuevo also approved a Marriott concept hotel called "Moxy," which will be built on the Depot lot across the street from Hotel Congress.

It's a $28 million, 110-room project which could be started soon after the AC Marriott opens.

The AC Marriott was the first new hotel in downtown in 40 years and now three could be opened in the next three years.

Developers do not believe they have reached the saturation point.

"There is room for another hotel, maybe even two," said Scott Stiteler, who is developing both Marriott properties. "As long as they're sensibly priced and in a quality location."

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