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Cleveland | Minorities seek role in Convention hotel

6:50 PM, Jun 25, 2013   |    comments
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CLEVELAND -- The planned new hotel to be partnered with the Cleveland Convention Center will be the city's biggest. And it will be a vital piece of a project to put new life in the city.

But now there's a push to make it something more.

Cleveland City Councilman Zack Reed and Hispanic business leader Gus Hoyas want it to make a statement that minorities can play a significant role in major downtown developments.

Hoyas challenged the Greater Cleveland Partnership to play an active role to recruit minority operators.

Reed wants it to show "that people of color can become part of mainstream revitalization in Cleveland. Period....I look at this as being a Carl B. Stokes moment."

Reed claims that of the ten Cleveland hotels that recently opened, are being built or are still on the drawing board, none are owned or managed by minorities.

"Is that fair in a city where minorities make up 60 percent of the city or a county where minorities make up 30 percent of the county?" Reed asks.

Hoyas says "This coould be a model across the country for minority inclusion...this would not be a failure for the city of Cleveland."

The current plan calls for the county to own the hotel, likely creating a public body to oversee it.

Jeff Appelbaum, the lawyer serving as project leader, says there will be the same kind of commitment to diversity that there was in building the Convention Center and Global Center for Health Innovation.

All the project goals for city/county residents getting construction jobs and minority and women small business owners getting contracts were exceeded.

But the current proposed structure does not seek investors.

Reed and Hoyas claims they have prospective investors lined up.

"There's not an opportunity for private investors...Private owners shouldn't want to be the owner of the whole project," he said.

Other sources claim private ownership would ultimately make the project more expensive. It's being paid for from multiple revenue sources, including sales tax dollars, bonds backed by hotel revenue and city funding.

The county is doing a disparity study and will structure a community benefits agreement that will address diversity goals and issues.

"We have a lot of time to lok at things and just because it hasn't been done before doesn't mean it can't be done in the future, " Appelbaum said.

The county is fast-tracking its solicitation of proposals to design, build and manage the facility.

An operator could be picked by this fall.

Demolition of the county building is on track to begin early next year with construction starting in April.

The goal is to have the hotel open in 2016, in time for the political conventions in the event Cleveland makes a bid or bids.

But as to their proposal for a greater role for minorities, Reed and Hoyas have one question for County Executive Ed FitzGerald and Mayor Frank Jackson -- Why not?

Neither FitzGerald nor Jackson had seen this proposal as this story was prepared.

Reed made the first public presentation Tuesday evening at Cuyahoga County Council's meeting.

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