The RTD board tonight approved moving forward with the staff recommendation to redevelop Denver Union Station as a hotel.
The approval came on a 14-0 vote, with director Bill James abstaining, citing a professional conflict of interest. He works for a commercial and residential real estate appraisal firm.
The vote gives RTD general manager Phil Washington authority to negotiate with Union Station Alliance for the project to transform the historic building into a boutique hotel affiliated with the Oxford Hotel. He can spend up to $200,000 on outside counsel to help him negotiate the deal.
Many of those who appeared on behalf of Union Station Alliance during public testimony tonight agreed to let Denver resident Anne Hayes speak on their behalf.
Hayes noted that the team took into account the opinions of stakeholders in the area and that its project will generate more revenue and tax money, while activating the building 24 hours a day, seven days a week for 365 days a year. She also said that with the hotel plan, Union Station will become a tourist destination.
“This is a place of hospitality,” Hayes said. “What it says is, ‘Welcome to Denver.’ It’s extremely important for tourism. This is a huge revenue generator for our city. To create a building that has a significant draw to it is extremely important.”
Several others who chose to speak in favor of the hotel plan said the number of jobs it would create is critical.
“We can create our own economic stimulus,” said Floyd Jones, a downtown resident and membership director for the Colorado Black Chamber of Commerce.
No one spoke on behalf of the competing team.
Union Station Alliance team member Walter Isenberg of Sage Hospitality said, “We take the responsibility of this landmark very seriously and will treat it with great care.”
The project must still receive the blessing of Denver’s Landmark Preservation Commission, which is charged with preserving structures or districts of architectural, historical or geographical significance within the city. And to qualify for the $7.5 million it needs for the project, the National Park Service must sign off on the plan.
Union Station Alliance has said it will complete the project by the time the transit at the station opens in 2014.
The team beat out Union Station Neighborhood Co., which had proposed a restaurant and market on the main level and offices on the second floor. Several board members have cited the financial differences between the two plans as the reason for their selection.
Union Station Alliance says its hotel plan will pay RTD about $65 million over the 60-year term of the lease and generate $130 million in tax revenue.
Union Station Neighborhood Co. — also the master developer of the 19.5-acre site surrounding the station, which will include an underground bus terminal and rail platforms – says its plan will generate $42.5 million for RTD over the 60 years it leases the building from the agency. It has not disclosed the estimated taxes the project would generate.
The decision comes after weeks of meetings, many in executive session, in which board members requested more information about each proposal.
Last week, the Financial Administration and Audit Committee, which consists of the full board, voted 9-5 in favor of the hotel plan.
The 15-member board swore in Kathi Williams on Tuesday, making an even split impossible if all members were present. During one previous meeting, the 12 members present were evenly divided over the proposals.
Both Union Station Alliance and Union Station Neighborhood Co. would keep Union Station’s great hall as a hub for transit users surrounded by restaurants and retail.
The main difference between the plans is that one calls for 130 hotel rooms on the second and third floors and the other would keep the second floor as office space and use the third floor for mechanical systems.
Margaret Jackson: 303-954-1473 or email@example.com
Article source: http://www.denverpost.com/breakingnews/ci_19588750