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Convention Center Hotel Moves Ahead With Alternative Financing

By J. Elias O'Neal, posted Jul 1, 2013

A long awaited hotel for the convention center is headed to Wilmington’s Development Service’s technical review committee, according to an official overseeing the project.

Brooks Johnson, director of development of Harmony Hospitality Inc., said Monday that project engineers and architects submitted plans last week for the $33 million, 186-room hotel proposed for 6 Convention Center Drive next to the Wilmington Convention Center.

Johnson said the city’s technical review committee would review the hotel project at its July 18 meeting, examining the developers’ plans for details such as parking, landscaping and buffers.

In May, city council members approved a 90-day extension through July 31 to give the Virginia Beach, Va.- based firm more time to finance the project using EB-5 money. EB-5 is a program where for a minimum of $500,000 invested, individual investors are fast-tracked green cards to move their families to the country.

It was the third extension given to Harmony Hospitality since the city first entered into a hotel development agreement in February 2012.

Johnson said the firm has not had its application to solicit EB-5 monies overseas approved by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. But Johnson said the firm was moving forward with alternative financing options to get the project going.

 “We’re immediately looking into bridge financing until long-term financing is secured,” Johnson said of the project, adding that his firm was still assessing the total amount needed to begin construction on the project. “We are going forward, we are spending money; it’s just unfortunate the government takes so long, but there’s is nothing you can do about.”  

He said the firm would still seek federal approval for EB-5 financing for the project.

Malissa Talbert, city spokeswoman, said since the project does not require a rezoning and adheres to the specifications of the memorandum of understanding between the developer and city, which includes 6,167 square feet of meeting space and a full-service restaurant and bar, the city council does not have to approve the project’s development plan.

Johnson said he hoped to break ground on the eight-story hotel this fall.  

“We have given the architects and site engineers and consultants approval to continue with the design and drawings, so when we are ready to move we will have everything in order,” he said. “We remain very excited about Wilmington and opening a new hotel there. We think it’s a great city.”

The Wilmington division of Becker Morgan is designing the project. Wilmington-based Woods Engineering has been tapped as the structural engineer, and Wilmington-based W.K Dickson will complete the civil and landscaping engineering for the eight-story hotel.   

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