Developers Show Interest In New Downtown Hotel

The city of Houston has hosted the Super Bowl, the NCAA Final Four, and countless numbers of large conventions. But officials say the city is actually losing business because of the lack of hotel space next to, or within walking distance of the George R. Brown Convention Center. That's why plans are in the works to build a new hotel.

By the year 2025, the plan is for the downtown area surrounding the convention center to look completely different than  it does today. That means a larger center, more things for people to do, and more hotel rooms for people to stay.

Dawn Ullrich, CEO of Houston First, says the number one priority right now is adding hotels. Houston First operates the Hilton and several other city facilities like the Wortham Theater Center and Miller Outdoor Theaters.

"From about 2000 on we’ve added a lot of hotel rooms about 2500 hotel rooms, but it’s still not enough to be competitive. So we’re doing better than we were, but it’s still not quite where we need to be."

Eleven developers have shown interest in building a new convention center hotel to go along with the Hilton Americas.

Ullrich says they need about 2,000 rooms in walking distance of the George R. Brown Convention Center, but 1,000 of them need to actually be connected to the building the way the Hilton is.

As it stands now large conventions have to bus their people to the center from other parts of downtown.

"The bigger the convention, the more likely they are to bus and so when you add busing to convention costs, it adds expense and complexity and makes it more challenging."

Ullrich says the lack of hotel space is causing Houston to lose money as some decide not to come to Houston or come and decide not to return.

"We had one group, Produce Marketing, that was here a couple of years ago, and because of our hotel packag — they’re not going to be able to come back, because they need more hotel rooms in close proximity."

Bob Eury is president of the Houston Downtown Management District. He’s not positive Houston needs a bigger convention center, but says more hotel rooms are definitely needed.

"There aren’t a whole lot of really big conventions that need really, really big convention centers. What a city would rather do is think of having one convention sort of starting and people coming, while another one is maybe being taken down. So that you get as many conventions spread out over time as you can, because that  keeps hotel rooms filled. That keeps  business coming to restaurants in the community."

Eury says even with smaller conventions, when they’re booked back to back  guests have to wait until visitors from the outgoing convention check out of the Hilton. With a second and third hotel they’ll be able to overlap them.

The city will decide on a developer this summer and hope to have a second hotel ready for business by early 2015.