In my last blog I mentioned that the downtown hotel project had a long history. Here is a piece I wrote for the North County Times on October 25, 2011—don’t think it ever got printed, but it gives a short history to that time. The project actually did die since then. I had submitted this essay with fifteen footnotes—all from the North County Times. I really miss that paper. In the last paragraph I ask the hypothetical question: “What would happen if the City were to start all over and put out a new Request for Proposals?” Perhaps we’ll find out in the next year.
Just when you think it’s safe to walk along Valley Parkway between Broadway and Maple, you encounter “The Return of the Living Dead, Part XV”; the C.W. Clark hotel deal is back.
This hotel reincarnation cycle began in October, 2003, when the City Council made a Request for Proposals for a downtown hotel. The City received proposals from two teams, and in June, 2004, chose the proposal from C.W. Clark for a 200-room, seven-story Marriott, rather than the more modest proposal from Faulkner USA for a 155-room, five-story hotel.
In February, 2005, The Council approved Clark’s proposal for the seven-story hotel, and a multi-story 142-unit condominium development over a 205-space parking garage on the parking lot across the street. Though the City’s original Request for Proposals did not include any offer of City financing (nor any mention of a Condo project), the Clark proposal included the City “sharing” some $19 million of the hotel’s cost. This $19 million did not include the City’s agreement not to charge ground lease for ten years.
Threatened in May, 2006 with a lawsuit from downtown merchants, who were a bit concerned about being in the shade of an eight-story condominium project and the loss of parking for an extended period, Clark dropped the condo project from his proposal, which the Council approved in August, 2006. In September, 2006, the project was slightly wounded by a lawsuit from downtown businessmen. That lawsuit was dismissed in May, 2007. The hotel project was alive and kicking until the economy began to crash.
By August, 2008, it was apparent that Clark was having a tough time securing financing. He missed a September 30, 2008 deadline, but the Council obligingly extended the deadline until January 1, 2009, which Clark also failed to meet.
In April, 2009, the Council brought it back from the grave. Dead again in October, 2009 — another missed deadline.
In February, 2010, the Council again disinterred the project. Strangely, the City’s subsidies had dwindled to $10.7 million. Even though the Council extended another deadline from December 31, 2010 to May 14, 2011, Clark was unable to secure financingt had been revealed in January, 2011, that that Clark was being sued for some $950,000 in unpaid debt; the deal should have dead and buried, forever.
Alas, the hotel specter returns with a more modest proposal. Only $5 million (only?) will be required from the City. This latest reincarnation will be a Marriot Courtyard that will present its backsides to City Hall and its flank to Valley Parkway. But, not to worry, “it’s going to be a very upscale” Courtyard, according to Mayor Abed.
Meanwhile, the Stone Brewing Company is building a world-class hotel without any City contributions. What would happen if the City were to start all over and put out a new Request for Proposals? If there is truly a market for a hotel in downtown Escondido, there will be builders other than C.W. Clark who will submit new proposals free of City subsidies.