Brian Scott, Denton County Reporter
Denton is considering building a brand new $85 million convention center and hotel complex near the University of North Texas.
City leaders are hopeful a proposal to build a new convention center in Denton could see a vote within the next few months.
On Tuesday night, the city council saw a special presentation from Assistant City Manager Jon Fortune who updated them on the latest version of the September 2011 proposal from O’Reilly Hospitality Management (OHM).
The proposal details a three-way partnership between the city of Denton, OHM, and the University of North Texas totaling about $85 million.
OHM would be responsible for $60 million, creating an Embassy Suites Hotel and Houlihan’s Restaurant and Bar, while the city would be responsible about $25 million to cover the convention center portion.
They’ve picked out a potential site where the old Radisson Hotel stood off Interstate 35E on the UNT campus. The college would lease out the land and likely use the hotel as an educational tool through the UNT School of Hospitality.
Fortune says the involvement of the college could make the complex partially tax exempt.
"There is a demand in this area for a facility such as this," Fortune said.
Fortune added that the city has been planning for a Convention Center since the mid 90’s when it was targeted as part of their community vision.
Right now the city is missing out on some events, even ones put on by local groups because they simply don’t have the convention space, Fortune said.
"We don't have the size of facility that they would need, nor do we have a facility that's tied to a convention center hotel,” he said.
Some residents say they are concerned.
"You have town after town, one right after the other here in the DFW area and each one of them putting up a convention center...what's the point?" said Brittany Kurth.
Fortune says the city has conducted back to back studies in 2007 and 2009 that showed there is business interest in a new complex on this side of North Texas.
The goal of the convention center is to make the complex self-supporting, according to Fortune. The city’s plan is to sell bonds, use property taxes and hotel occupancy taxes to pay back their $25 million share.
Fortune says there is still work to be done before any of this can become reality.
"We have to come to terms obviously on the terms of a developing agreement and there’s some financing issues that need to be resolved from the city's side as well as the developer's side,” he said.
Fortune is hopeful the proposal will be in front of the city council for a vote in the next few months.