News broke Friday that the shelved White Lodging Services Corp. plans for a 1,000-plus hotel at 2nd Street and Congress Avenue are back on the stove.
The story broke in the Austin American-Statesman, but the tip might have come from the public record, as Mayor Lee Leffingwell has added an item to this Thursday’s council agenda to waive $3.8 million in fees and also help pay for a $500,000 water line for the hotel. (Editor’s note: link corrected.)
The Statesman reported that construction will start in nine months.
Despite the drama playing out recently with Formula One tax spending and the council runoff elections, I think this multi-million dollar waiver will get unanimous support from council. There had been some debate about waiving the city’s right to an alley at the future hotel site, but I recall the topic being buried.
News that this deal — long-planned but put on ice when the economy tanked — is back on means a number of things.
1) More traffic downtown. That is an important note because it’s already hairy. This will add more pedestrians, more cabs, more pedicabs. More everything. City staff claims we will have 10,000 to 15,000 more employees downtown in the coming years.
2) It begins to create a commerce corridor along 2nd Street, from the Convention Center to City Hall, which will bolster the pedestrian vibe, economy and energy of downtown Austin.
3) This is a positive economic indicator for Austin. White Lodging recently put up a 34-story, 1,005 room JW Marriott in downtown Indianapolis. A lot of people said that was the money they planned to spend in Austin. The fact that White Lodging is planning to spend more dough, or incur more debt, for the Austin project is a sure vote of confidence.
4) Tourism and convention advocates tell city council we need more hotel space to compete on for more convention center business. If that is the case, and we do get some more big events, it means Austinites should get ready to share their city with America more often. (Which could mean skipping town for the weekend.)
5) More than likely, someone in Austin, probably a longtime landowner who bought nearby dirt for a nickel, is getting rich or richer.
This city, and the amount of exciting, good news in it, never ceases to amaze me. Other cities across the country would kill for a project like this in their downtown. In Austin, I feel like we’ve become desensitized to such good news.
I’m telling you: this is the kind of project that people in the Midwest stake a career on.
[image from SkyscraperPage]