Courtyard Marriott developers to try again for TIF for downtown Baton Rouge hotel
The developers hoping to build a Courtyard Marriott at the corner of Third and Florida streets in downtown Baton Rouge are again asking the Metro Council for a special tax incentive to help finance their planned 135-room hotel.
South Carolina-based Windsor Aughtry Hotel Group and their local partners Gordon Leblanc and Moffett Leblanc Strain are seeking approval from the council to use tax increment financing, or a TIF, to help cover construction costs of the $22-million hotel. Specifically, the developers are asking for a two-cent TIF that will generate an estimated $700,000 per year in city tax revenues, $100,000 of which will be rebated back to the developers.
They will also ask the council for the authority to levy an additional two-cent sales tax on rooms and goods at their hotel, as other hotels have done. Both taxes will expire after 20 years. Unlike some other downtown hotels, the Courtyard developers are not seeking tax incentives from the state. Because their project would be new construction, rather than a renovation of a historic building, developers will not qualify for the property tax relief that has been given to the developers of several other downtown hotels.
An attorney for the developers are filing the TIF measure with the Metro Council administrator’s office this morning and it will be introduced at the council’s meeting on Wednesday. It will not come up for consideration and a public hearing until the Oct. 28 meeting.
In July the Metro Council rejected by a 5-4 vote a nearly identical TIF measure, questioning the need for more downtown hotel rooms and the wisdom of creating more tax incentives to finance them. In the months since, however, the developers have met individually with Metro Council members to make a case for their project and the TIF. They’ve also gotten support from other downtown business owners and city administrators. Among their arguments:
- The market isn’t as soft as previously suggested, particularly when you measure the performance of the six or seven specific hotels against which the Courtyard will be directly competing.
- Downtown needs at least 1,200 to 1,400 hotel rooms to grow its convention business, according to a recently resurrected 2004 study.
- The project will create 50 jobs and produce $800,000 a year in tax revenues.
- Every other downtown hotel was financed in part by some sort of tax incentive. The Courtyard project was promised help, too, when it was first announced so it’s not fair to change the rules in mid stream.
“After our two months of meetings, we were met with enthusiasm and support from council members, local businesses and most downtown hoteliers,” says Bill Fayssoux, project manager with Windsor Aughtry. “It is the goal of the development team to move forward in reintroducing the TIF at this time to ensure an early first quarter construction start date.”
The TIF needs seven votes on the council to pass. Though it’s impossible to say for sure whether the votes are there this time around, the developers have previously said they would not reintroduce the measure without the necessary commitments of support.
“We are grateful to have had an opportunity to meet with each council member and provide additional accurate information about our project,” Fayssoux says.