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County, City Leaders In Stalemate Over Convention Center Hotel

Controversy surrounding the status of the proposed hotel developer is holding up the $72 million project (WFIU/WTIU News)

Seven architects are waiting for county and city leaders to move forward with the Monroe County Convention Center expansion. But controversy surrounding the status of the proposed hotel developer is holding up the $72 million project.

The stalemate is between county and city leaders over whether Sun Development’s Embassy Suites should receive the bid as the private hotel developer.

Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton says the request seeking developers came before the food and beverage tax went into effect, and only two parties responded.

“The county did a process to find a partner of the hotel to help them determine whether or not a convention center could theoretically be built and the answer is yes, it can be built,” Hamilton says.

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Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton (Joe Hren, WFIU/WTIU News)

The Monroe County Commissioners issued the Request For Qualifications on April 5, 2017.

Hamilton says the hotel partner should be a joint decision between the county and city.

Advisory commission member John Whikehart says the city was a part of that process.

“Mick Renneisen, the Deputy Mayor, has been on the advisory commission from its inception, has been involved in the negotiations with the Embassy Suites Hotel and has been the mayor’s active representative in this process for 18 months,” Whikehart says.

He says the project was never up to the city; it’s been a county project all along.

“I respectfully disagree with his characterization of the situation," Hamilton says. "The convention center will be paid for by the city essentially through the food and beverage tax that comes to the city.”

But Whikehart says that's inaccurate.

"The county council passed the food and beverage tax. The mayor committed the city’s portion of the food and beverage tax to the expansion project and the city council passed a resolution in support of that commitment,” Whikehart says.

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Advisory Commission Member John Whikehart (Joe Hren, WFIU/WTIU News)

Whikehart also says the county doesn’t need the mayor’s permission to lease its land to build a hotel. But Hamilton says the hotel location hasn’t been decided.

"We have multiple hoteliers, terrific ones, including one we already heard from who want to do this," Hamilton says. "And the city’s view is we need a good process to identify that hotelier."

Whikehart says he wants to know what hoteliers Hamilton is referring to.

“Who is it that’s going to come in? The Hilton is not going to come in and compete against itself, the Hyatt won’t compete against itself, the Marriott is not interested. Who is this? And they certainly have not come forward to the advisory commission or the county commissioners,” Whikehart says.

The project has been on hold since early August, until county and city leaders agree on a new Memorandum of Understanding on how they should collaborate on the project.

Meanwhile, people continue to pay the 1 percent food and beverage tax on all prepared food and drinks in Monroe County.

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Proposed scheme for the Monroe County Convention Center Expansion

 

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