Convention center hotel to break ground

After a few last-minute tweaks to the agreement between the developer and city officials, construction of the four-star hotel next to the Greater Tacoma Convention Center will break ground on Aug. 8.

“This estimated $150 million hotel and mixed-use project will contribute to downtown Tacoma’s renaissance significantly,” according to a city staff report. “It is one of the first major foreign direct investments on publicly owned land in Tacoma. The project will generate substantial tax revenue, create about 1,000 construction jobs and at least 200 full-time jobs, and enable the GTCC to attract larger conventions to enhance Tacoma’s economic vitality.”

The developer is largely financed by Chinese investors and operates a collection of properties, most locally the Four Points by Sheraton, a 225-room hotel in Des Moines. The project by Yareton Investment & Management will offer 300 rooms and retail spaces and serve as the anchor hotel for the convention center, which has struggled to land larger convention and trade shows because of the lack of nearby hotel rooms. The project will not only include a 24-story Mariott-branded hotel but a twin tower that would provide up to 200 apartments or condominiums at nearby Court C and South 17th Street in a second phase of the development. Details on that will be developed based on market demands after the hotel is in operation.

“This is a very serious undertaking,” Tacoma’s Business Development Manager Elly Walkowiak said.

Plans for a hotel dedicated to the convention center have been in the works since the city completed construction of the facility in 2004. Those plans got a boost in 2014, when the city entered a development agreement with Yareton to develop a hotel and mixed-use project at 1538 Commerce St. That deal has been extended four times since then to allow for changes to the scope and timelines, at a total cost of $325,000. The hotel will be located on two acres next to the convention center and open in 2020. Failure to meet the deadline could cost Yareton $6,000 a day in damages to the city.

Yareton is purchasing the property for $6.4 million, with most of the revenue going  to the city’s efforts to restore the 160 parking stalls it will lose in the project. The plan is for the city to buy two floors of the hotel’s garage for use by conventioneers. The city will pay $4.1 million for a total of 124 stalls as well as retain the option to buy another 40 on another floor for $1.2 million.

The hotel is under construction as the region is seeing an increasing number of tourists visiting Tacoma. An industry study released this spring concluded that more visitors came to Pierce County and spent more money than ever before. Pierce County, according to the report, tallied 6.3 million visitors, who spent $1.13 billion in 2016. That’s a 2.5 percent increase over the previous year, which included the tourism bump of the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay.

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