Texas developer touts Jackson convention center hotel plan

Texas hotel developer Journeyman Austin has submitted what it says is a confidential unsolicited proposal to build a 304-key, eight-floor convention center hotel on Pascagoula Street across from the Jackson Convention Complex, complete with a multi-floor-above-and-below ground parking structure.

» SEE UPDATE TO THIS STORY …  JRA agrees to let Journeyman Austin vie for convention hotel deal …

Journeyman Austin presented the proposal to Mayor Chokwe Lumumba’s office shortly after 5 p.m. Monday. The Austin, Texas-based developer is awaiting word on whether the city will consider the proposal before releasing details on it.

Texas developer Journeyman Austin envisions an entertainment themed convention center hotel for Jackson.

Texas developer Journeyman Austin envisions an entertainment themed convention center hotel for Jackson.

The newest proposal follows Tampa hotel developer Robinson Callen’s unsolicited offer to build a $60-million convention center hotel. That proposal has already received an official blessing from the Jackson Redevelopment Authority’s Board of Commissioners, though the JRA has refused to release any details of either the development agreement with Callen or the transfer to Callen of city-owned land across from the convention center on which the hotel would be built.

What is known about the deal comes from a press conference Harvey Johnson held in his final week as mayor. At that time, Johnson said the city would “backstop” $9 million of the project. The money would be loaned to Robinson Callen if hotel revenues fell short during the first few years of the hotel’s operation.

The mayor also said the hotel would be built on the approximately 14 acres the city had retrieved from Transcontinental Realty, a Dallas, Texas, hotel developer that sought for several years to build a hotel in Jackson and had taken possession of the 14 acres through a deal with the late Frank Melton during his time as mayor.

Journeyman Austin’s Jackson representative, Don Hewitt of Advanced Technologies Building Solutions, said it’s difficult to make a side-by-side comparison of the Journeyman proposal and Robinson Callen’s. “To be honest, we don’t even know what Callen’s offer is,” he said.

While Hewitt declined to provide cost specifics on the Journeyman Austin proposal, the developer submitted a proposal in December 2011 that specified a 304-room convention center hotel with an attached parking structure. That project carried a construction cost of around $67 million and total project cost of $75.5 million.

Hewitt in Tuesday’s interview insisted the Journeyman Austin offering is cost competitive with that of Robinson Callen.

“The hotel we have designed will far exceed the expectations of the city of Jackson or, for that matter, the state,” he said.

In an email Monday night, Hewitt said Journeyman’s proposal “highlights a music themed hotel designed to showcase the cultural diversity that exists in Jackson and the entire state.

“Similar to Memphis, we wanted to create a heart for Jackson entertainment. A hotel of this caliber will help to ensure that Jackson will regain its prominence and become a desired arts and entertainment destination.”

The idea is to integrate the hotel with the planned Farish Street entertainment district a couple of blocks away.

Like Robinson Callen, Journeyman would rely on New Market Tax Credits for a significant portion of the hotel’s funding as well as creation of a Tax Increment Financing District, according to Hewitt.

Meanwhile, all Journeyman Austin can do is wait to hear whether its proposal will get an opportunity o compete with that of Robinson Callen.

“We’re trying to make sure the city has an open and fair process for everyone to bid on projects, period,” Hewitt said.

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