On Dec. 19, just hours before voting to spend up to $30 million on a downtown parking deck, Greensboro City Council members got an update on the hotel proposed to be built on top of it.
Zack Matheny, president of Downtown Greensboro Inc., sent council members what he called an "Elm Street Hotel Center Fact Sheet." The email is a public record, as are all emails to council members.
Developers and city leaders had warned that without the deck, the hotel wouldn't get built.
About 10 or 11 hours after receiving the fact sheet, council members voted to approve the $30 million for the deck. The city is now planning to raise parking rates in decks across downtown to pay for construction and operation.
Developers haven't said much publicly about the details of the hotel, which is led by local businessman and philanthropist Randall Kaplan.
Because much of the information contained therein is new to citizens, Scoop thought we'd share some of it — with some additional information and some fact-checking.
COMPARISON TO CHARLOTTE
The sheet says the "full-service Westin conference hotel" will be "an exciting addition to the growth of Greensboro's downtown district just as it was in Charlotte. The Greensboro Westin will bring visitors and conferences to Greensboro supporting other businesses and museums in the community."
The city of Charlotte in 2003 spent $16 million on the Westin and accompanying deck, approximately 10 percent of the total cost.
The hotel has thrived, but hasn't brought the economic boon the city had hoped. According to the Charlotte Observer:
The city’s deal with the Westin included a parking deck and required the hotel to set aside rooms each month for conventions, ensuring the (Charlotte) Convention Center would have room blocks to offer clients. The opening of the Westin produced some short-term increase in business (at the convention center), though nowhere near projections. Bookings (at the convention center) then receded to levels before the hotel opened.
Greensboro has pledged to reimburse developers up to $30 million for cost of the two decks, which will be joined by a bridge above February One.
The fact sheet estimates construction cost of the hotel and parking deck at $75 million. That would put the city's contribution at 40 percent of the total cost.
The fact sheet says, "Once open, the hotel will create over 170 full-time equivalent jobs, including approximately 25 management positions and 145 hourly positions."
Jobs are jobs — especially when you're unemployed. But most won't be the high-paying ones Greensboro leaders say the area desperately needs. Consider these average (mean) wage figures in North Carolina, courtesy of the Bureau of Labor Statistics:
- Lodging managers: $26.34 an hour/$54,570 a year
- Hotel clerks: $10.39 an hour/$21,620 a year
- Waiters/waitresses: $10.08 an hour/$20,970 a year
- Maids and housekeeping staff: $9.85 an hour/$20,480 a year
"The hotel will generate $2.5 million in annual tax revenue for our state and community once it's fully operational," the fact sheet says.
"This includes $945,000 in sales taxes, $840,000 in occupancy taxes and $525,000 in property taxes."
The sheet doesn't provide a source, so it's unclear how this was calculated.
The fact sheet says that the Westin "will pay full market rates for 120 to 180 parking spots for its hotel guests with no preferential treatment from the city of Greensboro. The hotel's commitment for parking spaces supports the city's financial of the parking deck through parking fees."
Unless something has changed in the new year, Scoop knows of no commitment from the Westin for any spaces.
The agreement with the city says the hotel will lease up to 180 spaces at regular parking rates, but it doesn't specify a minimum.
According to the fact sheet, the Westin developers "returned nearly $2 million in economic incentives so that the city of Greensboro can use those funds for the construction of the public parking deck."
It's true that the council voted in 2014 to give the developers $1.975 million in incentives to build what was then going to be a Wyndham
But they didn't exactly "return" the money, since they never got it to begin with.
The council's vote called for the developers to get $395,000 per year for five years — granted they created the equivalent of 168 jobs that earn at least $9.12 per hour, including tips.
The city estimated then that the hotel would bring $1.03 million in property taxes in the first five years.
Also, economic incentives usually come in the form of tax breaks, or in reimbursements for projects already completed — again, something that can't be "returned."