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Mon, Sept. 16

Prescott Council candidates offer views on Hilton Garden Inn deal

Heavy equipment has been on site at the Hilton Garden Inn location at the corner of Montezuma and Sheldon streets in downtown Prescott for several weeks. City officials say the needed underground infrastructure work is now complete, and the aboveground improvements are expected to begin soon. (Cindy Barks/Courier)

Heavy equipment has been on site at the Hilton Garden Inn location at the corner of Montezuma and Sheldon streets in downtown Prescott for several weeks. City officials say the needed underground infrastructure work is now complete, and the aboveground improvements are expected to begin soon. (Cindy Barks/Courier)

Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series of questions that The Daily Courier posed to the five candidates running for Prescott City Council, leading up to the Aug. 27 primary.

Work has been underway for weeks at the site of the Hilton Garden Inn – downtown Prescott’s first major new hotel in years.

An informal groundbreaking occurred at the corner of Montezuma and Sheldon streets in mid-June, and heavy equipment arrived soon afterward to start the needed underground utility work.

Leading up to the start of construction, however, the project generated considerable controversy, with community members questioning the scale of the 101-room hotel at the high-profile downtown corner, as well as the city’s process for leasing the property to developers.

During the several-month-long review process, developers WSH Hospitality dealt with various issues, and an amended agreement for the project ultimately won unanimous approval by City Council in January 2019.

Prescott Community Outreach Manager John Heiney reported this past week that the city's underground utility work has now been completed, and the above-ground work is set to begin soon. (Underground infrastructure work by the developer is still to come, city officials say).

Along with the hotel construction, the city plans a host of recreation improvements in the adjacent West Granite Creek Park.

Recreation Services Director Joe Baynes reports that the park improvements are currently under design, and are about 30% complete.

The improvements will include a new splash pad, playground, event space and nearly 90 farmers’ market vendor spaces.

The City Council allocated $1 million in the city’s 2019-20 budget to cover a portion of the improvement costs. Baynes said the developer will pay for 50% of the splash pad costs.

Baynes estimates that he will present the project to the City Council in early 2020 for possible award of a contract, and the work could be started by spring.

With the 2019 City Council primary approaching on Aug. 27, the Courier asked each of the four candidates running for council, as well as one for mayor, to weigh in – in 70 words or less – on the city’s deal for Hilton Garden Inn:

Was the city’s recent agreement with the Hilton Garden Inn a good deal for the city? Why or why not?

MAYOR CANDIDATE

Greg Mengarelli: Bringing the Hilton Garden Inn project to our city will benefit all of our citizens. This project was a great collaboration with Prescott College, APS, the hotelier/investor, the Farmer’s Market and the City of Prescott. The annual economic impact for our city will be nearly $18M, which will create more opportunities and revenue to benefit our citizens. The area at Sheldon and Montezuma streets has been a real eyesore for our city and hides some historic gems that will come to life with this project. For instance, the historic railroad trestle will be refurbished and used for public and private events.

COUNCIL CANDIDATES

Cathey Rusing: Bringing a hotel downtown is a great project. I support public/private partnerships such as this. That being said, the process by which city land was leased by not going out to a public bid lacked transparency and competition. Doing business this way might discourage others from investing here. But moving forward, it will bring jobs, tax revenue, a home for the Farmer’s Market, a park and revitalize the area.

Billie Orr: Absolutely. The public private partnership between the city, Prescott College, APS, Hilton Garden Inn and the WBI Companies will be a huge return on investment for every partner. The hotel, public park with a splash pad, renovated railroad trestle, additional campus space for Prescott College, a home for the Farmers Market, and additional outdoor gathering space will all be great amenities and the crowning jewel of the Granite Creek Corridor redevelopment.

Jim Lamerson: Yes. Tourism, downtown redevelopment, bed tax and sales tax to provide basic services like police and fire.

Steve Sischka: The Hilton Garden Inn is not just a good deal, it’s an awesome deal. The return on investment for the city is outstanding. This public/private partnership has also created many positive economic opportunities for entrepreneurs in the formerly distressed area. It will create a beautiful public park and a permanent home for the Farmers Market. It will revitalize the old railroad bridge for public use and will help Prescott College with future plans.

Follow Cindy Barks on Twitter @Cindy_Barks. Reach her at 928-445-3333, ext. 2034, or cbarks@prescottaz.com.

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