The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

February 28, 2013

We are glad the city of Enid won’t be owners of the new downtown hotel


Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — We applaud the Enid City Commission for rightly clearing the way for a new downtown hotel, and we’re very glad the city is not going to be the owners.

Such a move would have put city government in an awkward situation of competing with private industry.

In a 5-1 vote, Enid city commissioners approved a development agreement with LodgeWell Development LLC, paving the way for construction of the $14 million downtown hotel.

The hotel will be four stories tall, and the city will pay the cost of demolition of Cherokee Strip Conference Center and gutting the interior of the Kress Building.

The facade of the Kress Building will remain and be incorporated into the 131-room hotel.

Some items will be negotiated separately, including a development fee, parking garage agreement for the hotel, reciprocal easement, any possible development incentives and an occupancy rate guarantee.

Enid currently is averaging 80-90 percent occupancy in its hotels. City Manager Eric Benson said indicators show that trend will continue for the next four to five years.

An agreement for a parking garage or a parking lot with 131 spaces for hotel use is in the contract.

Commissioners discussed possible city construction and ownership of a parking garage, at a cost of $3.5 million to $4.5 million.

The best news? LodgeWell will own and operate the Hilton Garden Inn hotel.

The city could have owned the hotel as a not-for-profit venture, financing its construction with bonds and benefiting from the hotel revenue after the bonds matured.

It was hard to find anyone leaning toward city ownership in the risky hotel business.

As stewards of our money, commissioners had to consider every option. City ownership was on the table as leverage during the negotiation process.

An overwhelming 97 percent of readers believed Enid’s proposed downtown hotel should be a private enterprise venture.

A paltry 3 percent thought the city should own it, according to our unscientific poll at EnidNews.com.

It’s nice to see the citizens in agreement with city hall on a positive project for Enid’s future.