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Saturday, February 18, 2012

Joe Weston says he'll build Convention Center hotel

One of Portland's old-time bunker peddlers has taken the plans for his failed 31-story condo tower in the Lloyd District and redrawn them as a hotel. There'd be three floors of condos, and 25 of hotel. No word yet on how much subsidy he'll be demanding from the public, but being that the property's on the east side streetcar line, he'll doubtlessly get plenty.

As for the design, the architects are selling the same line of bullpuckey that they pushed in building the failed SoWhat District:

With a tall, skinny facade, the Cosmopolitan is designed to allow more light and usable space between buildings. He said the team took inspiration from Vancouver, B.C., where point towers are commonplace.

But of course, since the powers that be have already cut a backroom deal with somebody else to build a hotel in the neighborhood, the Weston building is inadequate:

Metro’s general manager of visitor venues, Teri Dresler, disagrees.

"The Weston development, while it’s great – we love development in the neighborhood and it's fairly close to the convention center – doesn’t quite meet the criteria for a convention center headquarter hotel," she said.

Dresler said that in order for the center to gain the business it’s presently unable to capture, a block of at least 500 rooms is needed. To that end, she said Metro officials have resumed conversations with city and county political leaders to revisit the idea of a headquarters hotel.

Maybe we'll have two new hotels. Let's hope the taxpayers pay zero for the both of them. Portland is a weak attraction for a national convention, and that isn't going to change no matter how many hotels get built.

Comments (16)

"Cosmopolitan" and Joe Weston bring a chuckle and big smile to my face, if not a response more in line with rotflmao.

Teri used to head up condiment distribution at the zoo, I believe, before leaping to Metro's planner HQ. She didn't excel there, either, from what I understand. Overall, of the $19 million loss last year spread collectively among the Zoo, Convention Center, Centers for the Performing Arts, and Portland Expo, roughly $10 million was from the convention center, and the zoo was the second biggest loser.

Steven Malanga in City Journal has an article on how idiot cities across the United States are using public money to expand convention centers, including hotels, without success. There is only so much convention business to go around, and too many cities chasing it.

Boston provides the argument that Portland will probably use:

"Perhaps recognizing this weak economic record, convention and tourism officials have been changing their sales pitch. Convention and meeting centers shouldn’t be judged, they now say, by how much business they bring to local hotels, restaurants, and local attractions. Instead, we should see them as helping to establish a tourism brand for their cities. The director of Boston’s convention center, for instance, boasts that it brings the city “tourism impacts”—purportedly an economic value beyond whatever dollars the convention industry manages to attract."

Yep, it doesn't matter how much money you lose on a convention center, because it's "branding". I can see that in a Sam Adams' press release already.


I didn't read the whole article, but convention centers (and sports stadiums) are the 1980s - 1990s ways of re-igniting cities.

Their returns to cities are doubtful at best.

I'm glad you posted that article, this is something I've suspected for a while now, especially after the downturn.

People go to cities to see the actual city -- not to hang around a sterile convention center.

Portland is not unique in this aspect, in fact it's unfortunately one of the more restrained cities in not going crazy highlighting its convention center.

Convention centers have been sold by snake oil salesman politicians as a tourism catalyst in pretty much every city in America.

Portland won't be a year-around convention center city. That's not a knock on the city itself, it has great tourism potential, just a realization that people want sunny weather in the winter.

Mayor Hales will reign it all in.

I will defend a lot of government projects around these parts, especially environmental remediation. But if we spend a penny of tax money on this I'll be very upset. Why can't they be satisfied being a really good small-to-mid convention city? You know, because we're a small to mid sized city. Just play to your strengths.

Metro already has too many money losing projects it operates...zoo, convention center, the Schnitzer art center (& I think OMSI's one as well). Portland development commission is another money losing operation. The city doesn't have enough money to maintain streets for the next five years and Metro's association with TriMet is bleeding red ink. But somehow we just need to double up our bet, and go for a government investment in a new convention center hotel.

Maybe, the deal should be this: our local government leaders' pension incomes will fluctuate with the actual monetary performance of such a project (with a cap on the upside, and maybe a cap on the downside enough to permit them a poverty level stipend in their old age if things go the normal red ink route).

If we lopped 50% off of the Convention Center, it would be full more often.

How the hell did they (mis)manage the ZOO into a money loser? Is it NOT one of the better zoo's on the west coast?

...Why can't they be satisfied being a really good small-to-mid convention city? You know, because we're a small to mid sized city. Just play to your strengths.

Our downtown would have had lots to offer for those coming to our City of Roses for a convention. Haven't been down much lately and if some of it has turned negative, that could be made more positive again. I believe we have Rose Flags that could be brought out for conventions and a Rose in a vase everywhere people go to, a theme and not just the week of the parade.

Downtown area: The Historical Society, the Portland Art Museum, Performing Arts Center, The Symphony, Irish shop, and Oyster Bar, and the hotels are already down there, The Nines, Benson, Heathman, The Governor, Hilton, Marriott and others, so a mid sized convention spot in that downtown area would be better placed than where the vast, isolated convention center is now. Downtown Portland has a wonderful display of cast iron in the older buildings. We are a city of Bridges that on a foggy rainy day are quite lovely much like a watercolor. If we preserve what we have left instead of tearing down to look like every other place, we could be the quaint small-mid size city to come to for a convention. We have many many fine dining experiences with local wines. Our microbrew industry is another draw. The Rose Garden, (the one with actual roses in Washington Park) Japanese Garden, my point being that none of this is near that convention center we have now. It wouldn't feel good to me if I was a tourist to step outside that center to just a boulevard and not much else, what is missing are what I mentioned above. We cannot expect them to flock to the Lloyd Center when many of us who live here don't feel safe going there anymore.

Erik H. had an interesting idea of placing all government offices in that current convention center location. I would add with adequate parking available for citizens to attend hearings, get permits, etc.

Bob Clark: OMSI is not a Metro venue. Thankfully.

Metro has longed for Convention Center King status for quite some time, however, and voters approved a measure to construct it, some years ago, just as they approved a measure to construct Portland-Gresham loot rail. Both, as it turned out, were miserable failures (Gresham's mayor ordered Gresham police to patrol loot rail stations and, on occasion, even "trains" as the crime scene escalated. Rockwood's Fed Meyer center closed, citing increased crime and shoplifting; the area's Safeway followed suit, citing the same issues). Metro's Crown Jewel, the OCC, just lost tons of money.

Isaac: Metro floated a measure to double the size of OCC, claiming that doing so would cause the money to start rolling in. Tri-Met floated a measure to build Portland-Hillsboro loot rail. Both measures went down in flames.

So, Metro doubled the size of its OCC anyway, and Tri-Met built its rail line anyway.

Predictably, crime along the Portland-Hillsboro line went up; The Oregonian in 2007 published an interactive crime map that clearly illustrated the concentration of crime within a three block radius of then-existing loot rail lines.

Last year, OCC lost $10 million.

Paul: Good question, and I happen to have some of the answers. The Metro-run Oregon Zoo venue lost approximately $4 million last year, although it lost more when construction was done "in-house". There are several reasons for this: (1)over the past six years, they have added hordes of "managers". In the Living Collections division alone, they've hired five Curators, each costing approximately $120,000/year, counting benefits. These managers supervise a staff of approximately 38 full-time animal care professionals, so the zoo pays over half a million dollars a year to "supervise" "professionals" - six of whom are "lead" staff earning approximately $82,000 per year in pay and benefits - if you count the lead workers among those supervised by the curators, you have one manager for every eight professionals.

Put another way, the Zoo, under Metro, pays about $492,000 for six "lead" workers, and approximately another $600,000 for managers to manage the leads and the other 32 lower-echelon staff. Just in Living Collections.

(2) Similar for all departments there.

This year, they blame the recession for losing money, but the fact that after paying admission, a family of four who wants to eat at the venue finds that a burger, fries, and a coke apiece would run them $50 or more might cause them to lose their appetite. On a typical day, a visit to the zoo by such a family could well run to $100, if they don't pack a lunch.

Metro continues now to "explore" what'll make OCC a sure-fire success: a Convention Center hotel. Tri-Met continues to cram loot rail down everyone's throats. The collective's motto is: screw the will of the people. And no, you don't get to vote.

Haven't we talked before about the correct use of "reign" and "rein"?

Ha-Ha-Ha-Ha! Speaking about conventions - where would you rather go in December or March - Portland or Las Vegas? Where do you think some guy living in Chicago or Omaha in the deep of winter wants to visit?
Portland will NEVER be a convention "destination" for major conventions when it has to compete with Las Vegas or Phoenix or Orlando - especially in the middle of winter. The Las Vegas Convention Center is pretty well booked up all year long. It's the climate, number of rooms and possibly the best large space available in America.

In speign meinly on the plein.

"Ha-Ha-Ha-Ha! Speaking about conventions - where would you rather go in December or March - Portland or Las Vegas? Where do you think some guy living in Chicago or Omaha in the deep of winter wants to visit?"

But... but... but... since Everyone Wants To Move Here, it therefore follows that everyone wants to go to a convention here!

BTW, it is amusing that the purveyors of Smug insist that "everyone wants to move here", when in fact Oregon's population growth is less than the average Western state, and less than the average Southern state. Between 2000 and 2010, Arizona grew twice as fast as Oregon, Nevada three times as fast. Idaho grew nearly twice as fast as we did.

If the political class and urban trendies held themselves in less self-regard, it might occur to them that Portland is Not All That, and actually has to function as a normal city to attract productive residents, rather than as a great "experimental" venue for the planners.


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