Its time may have come: a new hotel downtown, four stars, at least 250 rooms, adjacent to the Greater Tacoma Convention & Trade Center.
Such a project has long topped the list of wishes of tourism officials, and the City of Tacoma on Tuesday issued a "Request for Interest" directed at developers and hotel operators.
The request asks for the expression of interest concerning a "high quality hotel and mixed-use development on an approximate two-acre, municipally owned site" adjoining the convention center located at South 17th Street and Broadway.
The site, now given to parking, was identified as a location fit for a hotel even before the convention center was built. Over the years, consultants and tourism officials have continued to press for the construction of a hotel that could offer large blocks of rooms to convention and meeting planners.
"It's something that's been desired for a long time,” said Martha Anderson, assistant director of the city’s Community and Economic Development Department, on Thursday.
“We’ve had new hotel rooms added, but it’s not at the level that the convention and visitor bureau and the convention center desire,” she said. “Even before the convention center was built, the convention and visitor bureau and the public facilities (department) understood that to get larger conventions, you need more hotel rooms in close proximity.”
Depending on what details and requirements are provided by developers who respond to the request, Anderson said the city could either lease or sell the land on which the new hotel would be built.
“It’s a need. City leaders have heard the outcry from those of us in the industry,” said Bennish Brown, president and CEO of the Tacoma Regional Convention and Visitor Bureau.
“We need those rooms to fully utilize the convention center. We are at a disadvantage when we recruit events,” he said. “We are competing against destinations in Washington. We are competing against destinations in this region, in the West, and nationwide. We have to have the right infrastructure. The more hotel rooms we can have close to the convention center, the better for us.”
The city has set a deadline of Feb. 24 for statements of interest. After reviewing the responses, officials could ask for further proposals, or formal proposals, or simply begin negotiations.
Developers are being given a wide palette to develop a vision for the site. It could include hotel rooms and meeting areas as well as space dedicated to retail sales.
The city’s request for interest does state that interested developers be prepared to provide detailed financing information should their proposals be accepted.
“We will see what kind of response we get,” Anderson said. “We think the responses will provide good information on how to proceed next. This is to gauge interest.”