Conference center proposals unveiled

Both facilities smaller than RFP; neither group rules out subsidy

Drawings of the proposed conference centers shown to the City Council included the Farmer Holding Company facility at Capital Mall, pictured, and the Ehrhardt Hospitality Groups facility at Broadway and U.S. 50.

Drawings of the proposed conference centers shown to the City Council included the Farmer Holding Company facility at Capital Mall, pictured, and the Ehrhardt Hospitality Groups facility at Broadway and U.S. 50.

The two remaining developers unveiled their concepts for a proposed conference center in Jefferson City, both showing smaller facilities than originally requested by the city.

At a special City Council meeting Thursday, representatives from the Farmer Holding Company and the Ehrhardt Hospitality Group made public their concepts for a conference center.

Drury Development Company notified the city last week of its decision to withdraw its bid for a conference center.

In their presentations, both hoteliers detailed projects that were slightly smaller in scope than the city called for in its request for proposals, both saying the project as described would not be feasible.

In the original RFP, the city called for a facility with a minimum of 30,000 square feet of exhibit space and an accompanying hotel with 200 rooms.

The Farmer Holding Company’s proposal, which proposes the facility at the Capitol Mall, shows a 20,000-square-foot facility with a 126-room hotel at a total cost of $25 million.

Ehrhardt Hospitality Group’s proposal, which proposes the facility at the West McCarty Street site, shows a facility with 22,500 square feet and though the concepts show a 200-room hotel, the developer said they would be more comfortable with a 150-room hotel. The project’s estimated total cost is $36.8 million, not including the cost of an accompanying parking garage, which the developer noted the city would be asked to fund.

Both hoteliers total costs include the $9 million contribution from the city’s lodging tax fund.

And neither hotelier is ruling out the possibility of an operating subsidy being necessary to keep the conference center running down the line.

“We would like to discuss that when we know more of what the city actually wants from a conference center,” said Kirk Farmer, with Farmer Holding Company.

Farmer said if the city opts to go with the project as outlined in the RFP, a subsidy definitely would be required.

Trey Propes, general manager of the Ehrhardt owned Candlewood Suites and part of the presentation team Thursday, said the city would need to work with the chosen developer to figure out what would work best and whether that includes an operating subsidy.

“I can’t say if we would or if we wouldn’t,” Propes said when asked if they would need an operating subsidy.

Originally, the council hoped to make a final decision on the conference center proposals by July 1, but the city’s recently hired facilitator, Charles Johnson, with Johnson Consulting, recommended a 60 to 90 day process following Thursday’s meeting. Johnson said the next 30 days would consist of gathering more information from each development team before finalizing the offers each team will make to the city. Johnson said he would put together a schedule for council members in the next few days.

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