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Experience Columbus Identifies Sites for Hotel Expansion by Convention Center

Brent Warren Brent Warren Experience Columbus Identifies Sites for Hotel Expansion by Convention Center
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Experience Columbus has been making the case for years that a new 1,000-room hotel is needed in order for the city to attract bigger conventions. Even as new, smaller hotels have been proposed and built downtown, the city’s tourism officials have insisted that a large, full-service hotel adjacent to the Greater Columbus Convention Center would be a game-changer.

A committee made up of Experience Columbus board members has spent the last six months studying the question in detail.

They have concluded that the easiest and best way to get to that 1,000 room mark would be to add on to an existing hotel, with two rising to the top of the list – the Hyatt Regency, at the corner of Nationwide Boulevard and High Street, and the Hilton Downtown Columbus, which sits across the street from the convention center on High Street.

Guy Worley, President and CEO of the Columbus Downtown Development Corporation, presented the findings at the Experience Columbus board meeting this morning.

“If we want to go to the next level, we need a 1,000-room hotel to compete,” he said, adding that “there are three logical sites, and they’re all along High Street.”

The 20-story Hyatt Regency was built in 1980 and currently holds 633 rooms. An expansion could add 380 rooms, bringing it over the 1,000 room mark.

An additional 476 rooms could be added to the Hilton, which opened in 2012 and currently has 532 rooms. A rendering of the proposed addition actually shows it as a new building across from the existing hotel, rising above what is currently convention center space.

A third site was also examined – the Crowne Plaza hotel, which sits on the south side of Nationwide Boulevard, across from the Hyatt and the convention center. That addition would be built on the current site of Sensenbrenner Park. Worley said that there would only be enough space to add 276 rooms at that site, bringing the total to 651.

The architectural firm NBBJ was commissioned to work on the study.

“They are three very viable sites,” said Don Brown of the Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority, who served on the committee. “They all offer adjacency, connectivity, and constructability, and at the right time, any and all of these sites could be developed.”

“We have had conversations with the majority property owners,” said Brian Ross, President and CEO of Experience Columbus. “They are receptive to having more conversations, so our goal is to sit down and see what they are looking at, and how the city and county could play a part.”

The City of Columbus is the land owner of record for each of the three proposed sites.

The study also looked at other possibilities for the immediate area surrounding the convention center.

Worley described it as “a framework for real estate development…looking especially at how to better connect the center to the Short North, to the Arena district, and to downtown to the south.”

Recommendations were made for improvements to five separate public spaces in the neighborhood:

  • Enhance Park Street with public art and street furniture.
  • Improve the pedestrian experience along Spruce Street from the convention center to the North Market.
  • Create an attractive gathering space at the corner Spruce and Park Streets.
  • Better connect the convention center to what’s happening to the west, at venues like Express Live and Huntington Park.
  • Beautify the large expanse of concrete at the intersection of Park and Goodale streets, which serves as the primary gateway to Goodale Park for pedestrians.

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