Kennewick has new $85M plan to expand convention center and add another hotel

The city of Kennewick has a new $85 million plan to expand the Three Rivers Convention Center, and this time, it’s enlisting a private developer.

The city on Tuesday approved a public-private partnership with an arm of A-1 Hospitality Group, a Kennewick hotel development firm headed by Taran Patel.

The city council agreed, 6-0, to sell nearly 3.6 acres next to the convention center to A-1 Pearl LLC for about $486,000.

The sale sets the stage for an $85 million agreement that calls on the city to expand the convention center and A-1 Pearl to build a seven-story hotel connected to the meeting space.

In a second phase outlined in the plan, A-1 Pearl would add 800 condominiums in three residential towers along with restaurants, offices and other space.

Convention Center project.jpg
In a second proposed phase, A-1 Pearl would develop 800 condominiums in three towers along with restaurants, offices and other space off West Grandridge Boulevard near the Toyota Center and Three Rivers Convention Center. City of Kennewick

Council members praised the project.

Councilman Steve Lee called it a “once in a lifetime opportunity.”

And Councilman Paul Parish said he believes it will change the complexion of the community.

The agreement gives both sides two years to iron out the details and plenty of room to back out.

The city would commit to a $35 million expansion that would add a 2,000-seat theater, 33,000 square feet of exhibition space, 11,000 square feet of lobby space, 13,850 square feet of back of house space and more parking.

The city has a year from the date of the deal to identify a source for the money for the project.

Failed Link project

The upgrade package essentially identical to “The Link,” the list of amenities Kennewick voters rejected when they refused to raise the local sales tax by two-tenths of a percent on three separate ballots, most recently in 2017.

Supporters says that although taxpayers rejected the sales tax increase, they didn’t eliminate the need for updates.

Kennewick voters three times have said no to The Link, a sales tax increase that would have expanded the Three Rivers Convention complex and upgrade the Toyota Center. Kennewick Public Facilities District

Conventions, conferences and trade shows yield $21 million in direct spending in the community but some major groups have already outgrown the current 75,000-square-foot convention space, including the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs.

A-1 Pearl would build a $50 million, seven-story, “upper mid-scale” hotel and a 40,000-square-foot retail building in its first phase of development. The unnamed hotel would connect to the convention center, similar to the SpringHill Suites which connects on the south side.

A1 Hospitality has a long track record of developing hotels in the Tri-Cities and elsewhere in the region. It is currently building a Courtyard by Marriott near the entrance to the Pasco airport.

Convention complex vision

The hotel and retail complex is just the start of the convention complex vision.

The partnership deal anticipates a second, larger phase with $160 million of residential and commercial space and underground parking.

That would be built on a parcel next to the hotel tower along West Grandridge Boulevard. A-1 Pearl will pay $5,000 for the rights to purchase the smaller site at a later date.

Three Rivers Convention Center
The city of Kennewick is enlisting a local hotel developer in its latest plan to expand the Three Rivers Convention Center. Courtesy of Visti Tri-Cities

The second phase could add up to 800 condos in three towers, as well as space for restaurants and offices.

Supporters see it as a complement to the Port of Kennewick’s vision of a mixed-use development at the now-closed Vista Field municipal airport, which is across Grandridge Boulevard.

A-1 Pearl is expected to raise money for the first phase through the federal EB-5 immigrant investor program.

Administered by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, EB-5 awards green cards to foreigners who invest $500,000 in projects that create new jobs in distressed areas.

Wendy Culverwell writes about local government and politics, focusing on how those decisions affect your life. She also covers key business and economic development changes that shape our community. Her restaurant column and health inspection reports are reader favorites. She’s been a news reporter in Washington and Oregon for 25 years.