Hamilton County, Port Authority move closer to new convention center hotel

Hamilton County, Port Authority move closer to new convention center hotel
A rendering of the new convention center hotel. (Source: Image courtesy of the Enquirer)

CINCINNATI (FOX19) - Cincinnati is one step closer to getting a new downtown convention center hotel.

On Friday, officials representing Hamilton County and the Port Authority announced a deal in which local developer Rob Smyjunas, who has a purchase contract on the existing Millennium Hotel, agreed to assign that contract to the Port.

The assignment allowed a $1.3 million deposit to be paid to the current owners of the Millennium Hotel, London-based Millennium & Copthorne Hotels.

The deposit, an earnest money payment, is part of Smyjunas’ purchase contract. Such good-faith payments are frequently used in real estate deals to allow buyers extra time to do their due diligence and acquire financing.

Assigning purchase rights to a third-party buyer is also a frequently used tactic employed by real estate investors, who are often awarded a finder’s fee for bringing the seller and buyer together.

Smyjunas, CEO of Oakley-based Vandercar Holdings, is the developer responsible for Oakley Station and Center of Cincinnati.

In this case, the $1.3 million deposit originated from Hamilton County, which voted to grant the money to the Port last week. Hamilton County sourced the money from the county’s hotel tax revenue, which is earmarked for conventions and tourism, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer.

With the deposit paid and the purchase contract assigned, the Port can now study what size of hotel would best meet the region’s needs—and if a combined convention center expansion would make sense.

Officials project a combined hotel and convention center expansion would cost between $400 million and $500 million, reports the Enquirer.

Any future hotel would be owned by the Port. The arrangement, which has been used before in projects such as Queen City Square, leverages the entity’s public status to save on construction expenses and issue tax-exempt bonds on the future hotel’s operating revenue.

A new convention center hotel would be a boon to the region’s economy, officials argue, one that has been decades in the making.

“This is a watershed moment for the Cincinnati hospitality community,” Cincinnati USA Convention & Visitors Bureau President and CEO Julie Calvert said. “Development of a headquarter hotel has long been identified as a top economic development priority for our region. For our CVB, our Board of directors and our hotel community, it has been the priority.”

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