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Cleveland: Fast-tracked hotel planners want input

11:21 AM, Aug 8, 2013   |    comments
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CLEVELAND -- It seems like just yesterday that Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald and Mayor Frank Jackson rolled out plans for a Convention Center flagship hotel as the cornerstone of multiple downtown improvements.

But Thursday the expected designers of the project will already be in town, seeking input from citizens, stakeholders and the community.

Atlanta's Cooper Carry design firm was the consensus choice from 17 contenders.

And it's not planning to impose its vision.

"There are no design concepts yet," said Pope Bullock of the firm. "We learned a long time ago to come with our hat in hand and a fair amount of humility. ... It's just the first opportunity to ask some questions, do some listening, taking a lot of notes to understand a broad range of issues."

Meanwhile, the project is unfolding along multiple threads that will all come together.

Requests for firms interested in building the project just went out this week.

And six big-name hotel chains vying to operate the facility made their pitch to key players Tuesday and Wednesday.

"We're looking for an operator that gives us a four-star hotel ... someone who can give us that convention hotel experience," said project leader and lawyer Jeff Appelbaum.

The Cooper Carry design team should be formally approved by County Council next week.

And the selection of hotel operator and building contractor are being timed to coincide.

The $230 million hotel will be the city's largest, estimated to be 650 rooms and 19 stories.

With interest rates  and construction costs rising, there's a bottom line incentive to keep the fast-tracked project moving.

The goal is to start construction early next year with a 2016 opening -- in time for a possible political convention.

This a very fast track for public projects in Cleveland.

"It is a fast process," Appelbaum said, "(but) it is not faster than it should be."

One big concern is making the project fit in with iconic surrounding government buildings and harmonize with the Burnham plan, connecting downtown to the Lakefront.

The meeting seeking community input is Thursday from 1:30 to 3 p.m. at the the downtown Cleveland Public Library, Room 218.

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