Commission to move hotel project forward

The Pine Bluff Civic Auditorium Complex Commission approved a resolution to be sent to the full council regarding the convention center hotel development project on Tuesday during their regularly scheduled commission meeting.

If approved by the Pine Bluff City Council, the resolution will allow Pine Bluff Convention Center Executive Director Joe McCorvey to negotiate and coordinate with the chairman or designate of the Public Facilities Board to complete and submit to Marriott Hotels an application for a hotel franchise, and settle on the terms of necessary interlocal agreements.

The Public Facilities Board includes five individuals who will be given ownership of the hotel and will carry out the lease according to McCorvey. The creation of the board, which consists of William Bridgforth, Dr. Suzzette Goldmon, Kemma Rhodes, Letrece Harris and Marty Casteel, was approved by the city council in June through an ordinance.

According to the approved ordinance, the Pine Bluff Civic Auditorium Complex Commission owns, operates and maintains the Convention Center. The commission also owns the adjacent Plaza Hotel, and both properties need repairs and renovations, according to officials.

The Pine Bluff Urban Renewal Agency bought the Plaza Hotel, which is connected to the Convention Center, for $1.2 million back in 2019. The five-story, 200-unit, 175,000-square-foot Plaza Hotel opened in 1988 as the Wilson World Hotel but has fallen into disrepair.

The commission’s goal is to repair and renovate the convention center and to facilitate the acquisition, construction and equipping of lodging on the hotel site, in the belief that the completion of both projects collectively will result in additional convention events.

The city was authorized by Arkansas statute to provide financing and tourism facilities through the creation of a public facilities board and the issuance of revenue bonds by the public facilities board.

The Public Facilities Board’s authority is limited to accomplishing, financing, contracting concerning, acquiring, constructing, operating, maintaining, improving, and equipping the facilities.

The board is authorized to issue bonds and use the proceeds to accomplish the purposes for which the board was created.

The proposed resolution states conveying ownership of the hotel property to the Public Facilities Board, with final transfer to be approved by the commission; demarcating each entity’s responsibilities during and upon completion of the hotel development project construction; and reviewing and assisting in the preparation of the hotel management agreement.

McCorvey said during the meeting that the proposed resolution was on the advice of the city attorney and the P3 Group, to fall in line with the state statute.

If it is approved by the city council, McCorvey will also initiate discussions with the Advertising and Promotion Commission members and director regarding how the A&P commission can advance the hotel development project; review and make comments and recommendations to the commission regarding the feasibility study prepared by the P3 Group assessing the profitability of the hotel; and ensure that the terms of any development agreement or financing agreement do not burden the Convention Center property.

McCorvey said the first step is to put a timetable in place. Officials predict construction will begin the first of the year, if everything goes according to plan.

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