The Bayfront Hotel Debate: Private Vs. Public

February 4, 2014-   One common goal: taking Erie's bayfront to the next level.
And while there is no debate that developing the iconic piece of prime real estate would bring good things.
A debate rages on over public versus private funding.
Collectively, everyone agrees that the future of Erie's bayfront is bright.
But a dispute over two proposed hotel projects and the funding for one of them has been pushed to the forefront.
It has some people questioning whether building another hotel will really benefit taxpayers in the long run?
Erie's bayfront is changing....
Two new waterfront hotels are in the works.
Both said to make business boom in our flagship city.
But they are very different plans: one is privately funded... The other would be publicly funded... 
The private hotel would be on the tax rolls.  The public hotel would not.
Some taxpayers are concerned a publicly backed hotel could be a financial burden.
Scott Enterprises is a family owned private company that has proposed spending $150 million dollars to build Harbor Place with private money.
Harbor Place would be a haven for shopping, entertainment and new living space and would include one, maybe two hotels.
But there's a snag in their plan...
The Scott's lost financial incentives they were hoping to get from the state in the form of a “CRIZ”...
A Community Revitalization and Improvement Zone, which is used to spur growth in cities that have struggled...
State funds are used for that.
Although the bid has been lost for now, the Scott's are continuing to call on local legislators to get Erie approved for a CRIZ sooner than later.
Meanwhile, the second bayfront hotel project is the Convention Center Authority's proposed 191 room courtyard by Marriot... More affordable than the Sheraton, but just like it, built adjacent to the Convention Center.
The Convention Center Authority believes building this hotel would bring more conventions to the hotel because more rooms connected to the hotel are appealing to visitors....
The county says it is putting its full fate and trust in securing a bond issue.
This project would use a proposed debt guarantee of up to $60 million dollars.
The authority is eyeing bank financing or a long term capital bond.
County council officials say the ordinance guarantees up to the total amount of the project which is $60 million dollars.
However, $25 million dollars is coming from a state grant.
Getting County Council's approval means the authority could get a lower interest rate on the debt.
The authority would make the debt payment and county taxpayers would only be responsible for repayment if the authority defaulted on the loan...
Just like the current Sheraton Hotel the proposed new convention center hotel would not pay property taxes.
Convention Center Authority officials say building a new Sheraton means adding an estimated 200 construction jobs in the process.
Scott Enterprises meanwhile has launched a petition drive to call on County Council members and municipalities throughout the region to not support the guarantee the Convention Center Authority’s proposed hotel, when private investors have already agreed to build one.
That petition can be found at

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