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Oregon Senate Moving in Favor of Convention Center Hotel

26 Mar, 2015

By: Mary Helen Sprecher
Proponents Cite Increased Conventions and Sports Tourism; Downtown Hoteliers Opposed to the Measure Say There Will Be Pressure to Lower Room Rates

Hotels in Oregon aren’t liking a bill that would remove their ability to object to competition in the area.

According to an article in The Oregonian, the Oregon Senate moved to clear the way for a proposed 600-room Hyatt hotel at the Oregon Convention Center, financed in part by the Metro regional government.

The Senate passed the bill confirming Metro's authority to build or buy tourism venues without seeking voter approval. It would void an argument competing hoteliers have used to challenge the project in court.

Senate Bill 927, which passed 20-10, now heads to the House.

Opponents of the plan say they want voters to have a chance to weigh in on the project and its $78 million in taxpayer subsidies. Metro is now trying to sidestep the court battle by asking state lawmakers for a bill that would assure the project is exempt from a vote.

Proponents of the bill point to the hotel’s potential for positive economic impact; according to their plans, the hotel would help attract five to 10 new mid-sized conventions and sports events each year, bringing with them travelers who would stay 70,000 nights in local hotels and spend $600 million each year.

In addition, says Metro Council president Tom Hughes, the hotel will create 950 permanent jobs.

Opponents (namely a coalition of competing hoteliers led by Provenance Hotels of Portland) say those projections are overly optimistic and that the hotel could hurt other local hotels by undercutting room rates.

The hotel project is proceeding through the permitting process even as the legal challenges continue.

The opponents launched a two-pronged attack on project, petitioning in Multnomah County for a referendum and challenging in Clackamas County Court Metro's authority to build a hotel. Judges in both cases sided with Metro, and the cases are on appeal. The Senate bill would effectively settle the issue of Metro's authority, but opponents could still push for a referendum.

Andy Shaw, chief of staff for Metro Council President Tom Hughes, said earlier this year that Metro hopes to break ground late this summer or early fall if the legal proceedings end up in Metro's favor.

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