City hotel proposal gains late support
Fund to help neighborhoods may help chances in 1st key vote
"What this does is demonstrate that the city is not only focusing on the downtown area," Tripps said. "If this is an issue, it's a possibility they will change their vote."
Many of them balk at Baltimore getting into the hotel business, wishing the city would instead consider a deal with private investment.
The Baltimore Development Corp., the city's economic development arm, says the all-public financing model is the only viable way to build a hotel. Although the city has had offers to build the hotel with private money - one as recently as last week - BDC officials call the $305 million public scenario superior because Baltimore could keep all of the profits. And BDC officials say the hotel's revenue will easily pay off the city's bond debt.
Portman Holdings, an Atlanta firm that previously bid for the hotel deal, submitted an offer to Dixon last week saying the company could build Baltimore a 750-room convention center hotel for $214 million - with about $50 million in city tax breaks.
"It's misinformation from the BDC that there never was a viable private proposal - that's just not true," said Roger Zampell, Portman's senior vice president of development. "You can make the numbers say whatever you want, depending on what side of the fence you're on.
"If the council is willing to sit down and listen, [a private deal] should be able to be accomplished."
Dixon gave Portman's proposal to the city's finance department for analysis, said Chris Williams, Dixon's spokesman.
Harris, who says he won't support the proposal unless Hilton offers the city upfront a portion of the money it has pledged to guarantee Baltimore's bond debt, said Portman's offer probably comes too late.
"What it's gonna do though, definitely," he said, "is validate people who are 'no' votes."