The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

January 9, 2014

Land changing hands: LodgeWell to unveil its final vision for downtown Enid Hilton Garden Inn

By Dale Denwalt, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Prime downtown real estate is set to change hands early next month as developers are preparing to unveil their vision of Enid’s Hilton Garden Inn.

The city-owned land, which formerly supported the Kress building and Cherokee Strip Conference Center before those buildings were razed, is being turned over to LodgeWell LLC, a Kansas company that will spend more than $14 million on the hotel.

Alongside the hotel will be a 250-space parking garage, which the city agreed to build. The city is finalizing the money needed to fund its construction. The funds will come from a $6 million loan, but officials are planning to create an entity that will bring in up to $1.4 million in federal New Market Tax Credits. The entity will be called a “Qualified Active Low-Income Community Business,” and is created as a mechanism that can receive the tax credits.

City Manager Eric Benson said receipt of the tax credits is not necessary to begin building the parking garage.

“We will be ready to move with construction almost simultaneously with closing,” Benson told Enid City Commission in an informal study session this week.

Nothing financial, he said, will get in the way of starting construction. The secured loan likely will have a 3.5 percent interest rate on a 10-year note.

Architects working on the facilities soon will present dimensions to the city, said city attorney Andrea Chism. That, and finalization of the funding documents, means the city could close with LodgeWell on the property within 30 days.

In response to a question from Ward 1 Commissioner Ron Janzen, hotel developer Dave Owen said he’s confident that $6 million will cover the cost of the garage.

“We’ve had estimates from two different contractors on the garage, and we feel pretty comfortable that’s the right number,” he said, although there are only preliminary designs of what it would look like.

One accouterment to the exterior could be unobtrusive electronic banners, Benson said.

Ward 6 Commissioner Dr. David Vanhooser asked how much revenue the parking garage will bring for the city. Benson said it’s too early to guess on a number, but noted pay-slip revenue is not the city’s main reason for having it built.

“The central focus of building the garage was primary to the hotel. The secondary benefits are basically your management,” Benson said. “Do you want to charge a user tax through the hotel for a downtown development fund? Do you want to rent the parking garage spaces? Those are challenges we can take up sometime in the future.”

In a brief presentation, Owen said his own financing is ready to go.

“On the debt side of the financing, we’re using a Kansas bank that is ready and willing to make the loan. All in all, it’s coming together very well,” he told commissioners. “I can’t thank you all enough for the cooperative way we’ve done this.”

At the next commission meeting in about two weeks, city staff will present the option of creating the tax-credit entity. In other states, whole city councils can serve as QALICB trustees, but it may not be that way in Oklahoma, which has little experience with New Market Tax Credits, Benson said.

“It cannot be a government entity, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be made up of government members. We’ll know within two weeks what that makeup needs to be,” he said.