Abilene Industrial Foundation pays $ 75,000 for hotel request

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The Abilene Industrial Foundation has invested nearly $ 170,000 in private resources to help the city of Abilene in its quest for a downtown hotel, the president of the Abilene Chamber of Commerce said this week, Doug Peters.

This total includes $ 75,000 to serve as the project franchise application fee to Hilton hotels for a DoubleTree franchise.

Based on two separate market studies, “we believe this hotel project will not only benefit the city center, but also generate additional hotel business that will benefit all hotels,” said Peters. The decision of the AIF board of directors is part of the continuity of the partnerships forged with the city for nearly three years.

Abilene City Council will vote on Thursday to form the Abilene Convention Center Hotel Development Corporation, a non-profit entity that would own the hotel.

Pay for itself

“(The) council will vote (…) to set up the local government company, which is a public-private partnership that will own the hotel,” said Peters. “They will enter into an operating agreement with a hotel operating company.”

Approvals have recently returned from the state, including a notice from the state attorney general’s office, Peters said, “that the ownership structure proposed by a local public company” will meet the requirements.

This would allow Abilene to apply the revenue generated by the hotel to the cost of its construction.

“We hope that during the summer there could be a groundbreaking ceremony,” he said. “There would be a period of time when the pre-development work would take place ie architectural work, design, schematics, utility planning and placement, site preparation (and) the demolition of that old utility building that the city uses over there on that block. “

The office will move to the old Kmart site in western Abilene, where a new Abilene Police Department will be headquartered.

“Ultimately hopefully we could have a hotel in our downtown area, around 24 to 36 months from that date,” Peters said.

Multi-step process

A map of downtown Abilene showing the proposed layout for the Congress Hotel and surrounding festival district.

This would be the end of a long process, said Peters, which includes passing legislation that would allow hotel occupancy tax generated by the hotel to pay for the project.

This in turn created a two-year period to “pull our program together to qualify for these funds” and ensure that “we are building the best possible business model possible so that there is no tax implication on the backs of people. Abilene taxpayers. . “

And then there was the process of “negotiating the flag” that the hotel will carry, he said.

“Whether it’s a Hilton or a Mariott or whatever, all of these things take time,” he said. “So my big fear throughout this process has been what I call transaction fatigue. People hear this, the promise of something over and over again, but it never seems to happen.

“People are sick of hearing about it.”

But with the actions taken by the council on Thursday and other steps leading up to this point, the deal Peters called “the most complicated” of his 33 years of professional experience is about to come to fruition.

“There isn’t a single piece of it that hasn’t been very well thought out,” he said. “… I think this will exceed the expectations of the community, both of its structure, what it will do catalytically, and then certainly, what it will do to help stimulate additional investment and growth, not just in the downtown area, but throughout our community. “

Doug Peters Abilene Chamber of Commerce

Long term goals

Downtown revitalization has long been seen as a amenity that will inspire young people to want to live in Abilene and be part of the workforce, “which we know we need to have to attract industry and jobs for all. the world, ”Peters mentioned.

The hotel project – which would be funded by a mix of around $ 40 million of private investment, a $ 7 million donation from the local private sector, some remaining funds from increased tax financing and HOT dollars – is not designed to enrich a person.

“City council members will continue to be paid the same $ 1 per year whether this hotel is built or not,” said Peters. “They’re not going to get a dime more out of it. And I can tell you the bedroom isn’t taking advantage of that.

“But who benefits is the whole community, especially those who do business in that community.”

Two different hotel market assessment companies came to similar conclusions on the project, Peters said. This has fueled the conviction that the project will not only benefit the development of the city center, but should also generate “additional hotel activity which will benefit all (city) hotels”.

This information and the long-standing partnership with the city prompted the AIF board of directors to spend the $ 75,000 in private funds for the Hilton bid, Peters said.

Community investment

The Abilene Industrial Foundation is a decades-old industrial recruiting and retention arm of the community and is a function of the House, he said.

“It is private and membership-based, and is made up of industry leaders, community and civic leaders, and those who want to see our community grow and prosper for the betterment of all Abilene,” a- he declared.

Each year, these companies invest in the work of the Abilene Industrial Foundation, such as during a recent fundraiser last fall.

“The funds invested by AIF members are used to stimulate the economic development of our community,” said Peters.

These mutual funds are used to pursue opportunities that are generally not within the scope of the work of the Development Corporation of Abilene, Abilene’s 4A sales tax entity.

“Because DCOA’s interests are largely focused on industry recruiting, retail, commercial, office and special projects fall under the House AIF,” said Peters.

It is up to the members of the AIF to choose to invest this private money, from the AIF Opportunity Fund, in projects that can advance Abilene’s economic interests.

“AIF members understand the value and long-term impact that a catalytic project of this nature can have on Abilene, and have therefore supported it from the start because they know that a downtown dynamic is good for all Abilene, not just one person or a group of people, ”said Peters.

There are “very few” communities the size of Abilene, said Peters, that have the market that will support the development and operation of a full-service convention hotel.

“And that’s really what we wanted, because we want to be able to go out across Texas, the southwest and really anywhere, and encourage groups of 100 to 400 and even more to hold their conventions here so may it benefit everyone in this community, “he said.

This benefit should trickle down, he said, “whether you work in fast food and serve these people when they arrive in the community, or sell flowers which are then used to decorate tables when. these people have their events here. “

“This product doesn’t exist, and that’s why it requires a creative approach to do it,” he said.

About DoubleTree

The first DoubleTree property opened in Scottsdale, Arizona in 1969. The company began the franchise in 1989 and 10 years later was acquired by Hilton Hotels Worldwide.

In 2011, it was renamed DoubleTree by Hilton.

DoubleTree now has more than 500 hotels in 40 countries and territories. It competes in the “full service” hotel industry alongside its sister chain Hilton Hotels & Resorts.


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