FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER — APRIL 24, 2013 –
By Steve Marschke
West Sacramento’s latest approach to bringing a hotel and conference center to its riverfront moved along last month after support from city council members.
A prior vision for the hotel placed it north of the Tower Bridge, operated by Marriott and owned by the city. Marriott is still in the picture as a potential hotel operator, but the new project is planned as a public-private partnership. It’s now on what the city calls a “premier” 2.7 acre site just south of the Tower Bridge, next to Raley Field and the Sacramento River. The proposed developer is Encore Garfield Public Private LLC.
On the drawing board are 343 rooms with a 20,000-square foot ballroom facility. Project cost of $130.8 million includes an expected $30 million in bonds backed by indirect income from the project. City consultants have said that a hotel with a conference center can’t be done here without public assistance.
Why is it a worth goal to risk public money for?
Such a hotel “would catalyze development on the riverfront, generate direct and indirect jobs, generate new tax revenues, and increase business and leisure visitation to the City,” according to a West Sacramento city staff report.
“I’ve. . . watched over the years as this city tried over the years to come up with an iconic project to really get this Bridge District going,” said Tony Giannoni, a member of the developer team. “That idea always seems to be a conference center/hotel.”
Giannoni made those comments in a March 20 West Sacramento City Council meeting (those comments were taken from city video of the meeting).
The development plan calls for the city to finance its $30 million in bonds for the project from a combination of hotel room taxes (about 12 percent of the room rates), another 2 percent room surcharge, property tax revenues from the future hotel, and lease payments from the hotel operator for use of the city-owned conference center.
City staff told the council March 6 that the bonds would not affect the city’s credit rating and revenues appear adequate to safely repay the bonds. If the income were not adequate, the city’s general fund would have to backfill a shortage.
As for the hotel’s conceptual design, architect Mark Hornberg of Hornberger + Worstell said the 20-story design will stay true to the city’s vision for the Bridge District.
“(We’re) trying to have our design address key tenets of that design, including activating the riverfront, reemphasizing connections with the river, activating the pedestrian realm, creating streetfronts that hide parking and emphasizing retail, restaurant, food and beverage (and) meeting revenues.”
The ballroom and “junior” ballroom will have outstanding views, he added.
“Both of those spaces have magnificent windows onto the river, the river environment, the Crocker Gallery across the river,” said Hornberger. “It will be a sought-out destination in this community.”
Mayor Christopher Cabaldon called the project a “critical” piece in promoting activity on the local river, and said the city would only be using revenues “that would not exist if we did not move forward.”
“There’s no diversion of funds we could have otherwise spent on police, fire, parks or any of our other (city) services,” he said at the March 20 meeting.
Mayor pro tem Chris Ledesma called the plan a “solid” one.
“I am excited about it, it’s generating excitement in my neighborhood, in the city and in the region,” said Ledesma.
With the council’s support, the project continues. A city staff member confirmed yesterday that the various negotiations involved are still underway.
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