Board members with the Kennewick Public Facilities District signed agreements Thursday, paving the way for a 102-room hotel to be built adjacent to the Three Rivers Convention Center.
The city of Kennewick still has to sign off on the deal and land sale, but board members and Vijay Patel, president ofA-1 Hospitality of Kennewick, said they are pleased the project is moving forward.
"This is one of the things our customers have been asking for," said board Chairwoman Barbara Johnson.
The board is working to make the convention center, as well as the neighboring Toyota Center and Toyota Arena, more competitive to attract conventions and other events. Event planners have told the district that having additional space and an attached hotel can provide an edge.
Patel plans to build the hotel, SpringHill Suites, on the southwest end of the convention center. The hotel brand is part of Marriott, offers lodging priced between $100 and $140 a night, and has locations in Seattle, Portland, Vancouver and Wenatchee.
The building still is being designed, but Patel said he wants to break ground this winter so it can open by the first quarter of 2014, the beginning of a new convention season.
"The main reason we're moving fast is so we open at the right time," he said.
The Kennewick City Council still has to sign off on the sale of land to Patel, and the issue is expected to be on the agenda at a Tuesday meeting. The district and Patel also have to work out other agreements, including one detailing the day-to-day operations of the hotel and its access to parking and other amenities.
The board also is still considering how to carry out a proposed expansion of the convention center. As part of the land swap to build Patel's hotel, the district reacquired land from the city on its northeastern end for the expansion.
How to pay for the estimated $15 million expansion hasn't been determined. District officials have said they're considering several options, including grants and a 0.1 percent sales tax increase
The expansion is also one of the projects being considered by the Tri-Cities Regional Public Facilities District. The regional board had initially decided to pay for a $36 million aquatic center at TRAC in Pasco, but Franklin County commissioners withdrew the offer for TRAC to be the site.
Other projects under the regional board's consideration include putting $14.5 million toward the Hanford Reach Interpretive Center in Columbia Park and a $35 million performing arts center that would be part of the campus near the convention center.
-- Ty Beaver: 582-1402; firstname.lastname@example.org