Convention Center hotel foe offers to buy project

Gordon Sondland, who led fight against Metro’s plan, offers $10 million more than Hyatt. Metro rejected his offer.

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Gordon Sondland, who led fight against Metro’s plan for a Convention Center hotel, offered $10 million more than Hyatt for control of the project.

Metro rejected his offer.

In a statement to Willamette Week, Metro Council President Tom Hughes said: “We’re glad that after years of paying PR firms to attack the idea of a convention hotel, and paying lawyers to file unsuccessful legal challenges, Mr. Sondland seems to have realized that the convention hotel project makes good business sense. The proposal that Mr. Sondland offered is not only unrealistic, it is three years too late.”

Sondland’s attorney Jim McDermott said Metro should at least consider the offer.

Sondland owns stakes in four downtown Portland hotels: the Lucia, deLuxe, Sentinel and Westin. For more than a decade, Sondland has paid representatives and lawyers to attack a convention center hotel as a threat to all downtown hotels and a risky investment for local governments. In March 2014, a hotel coalition backed by Sondland sued to block construction of a Hyatt hotel financed with $78 million from Metro, the city of Portland and Multnomah County. Most of the public subsidy will come from bonds paid off by lodging taxes. The project’s designer and builder, Mortenson Development, has agreed to spend $135 million. Hyatt will buy the hotel from Mortenson for a price that hasn’t yet been set. 

McDermott says Sondland’s $10 million investment would cut the public subsidy. “We’re offering to take less of a reward than the out-of-town companies are offering to take,” he says. Documents released to WW under the state’s public records law show Sondland’s lawyers sought to settle the lawsuits starting in February. Two weeks ago, Sondland’s company, in a letter sent by McDermott, proposed that Metro let it take over the planned hotel. Four days later, on April 24, Metro attorney Alison Kean rejected the offer, saying it would break the agreement with Hyatt, increase construction costs and derail the project.

Kean also noted, in documents obtained by WW, that the years-long fight indicated Sondland’s “long-stated position” that the hotel would be a loser for taxpayers “is diametrically opposed to the project mission.”


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