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Opinion: Hilton’s Owner Shouldn’t Try To Block The Convention Center Hotel

By Rob Kaiser, posted Feb 5, 2014
Below is an open letter to Andrew Sims, CEO of Sotherly Hotels, which owns the Hilton Wilmington Riverside:
 
Mr. Sims,
 
We haven’t met before, but I’m going to be direct.
 
I want to make sure you know your attorney, Matthew Davis, stood alone last night at the Wilmington City Council meeting. While speaker after speaker talked about the benefits of adding a Convention Center hotel to our community, Davis was the only person who opposed the plan.
 
We’ve all seen movies where a brave, lone voice rings out, and eventually the community comes around to the right decision.
 
I can tell you that script isn’t being written here.
 
If I had to use a standard storyline to describe what is happening, it would be the one where a big corporation puts its short-term profits ahead of a community’s greater good.
 
And just so you know, your situation is worse than going up against motherhood and apple pie. According to those who spoke last night, you’re up against soccer moms and the YMCA.
 
Fortunately, city council members didn’t heed Davis’ warning that they are “leading the city headlong into trouble” by approving a $33.6 million, 186-room Embassy Suites adjacent to the Convention Center. The vote was unanimous to move forward with the project.
 
Aside from the hotel’s grand opening festivities in the summer of 2015, I hope council’s vote is this movie’s final triumphant scene.
 
But it appears you’re looking to add some courtroom drama.
 
Davis argued the city’s agreement with the Embassy Suites developer violates the settlement of an earlier lawsuit over the Convention Center. He said Embassy Suites shouldn’t receive reserved parking spaces in the Convention Center garage, and the city is subsidizing the project by selling the land for $579,000.
 
Clearly you are not concerned about parking spaces and if the city can get a better price on some land. Filing a lawsuit against the city would be a transparent attempt to use the courts as a stalling tactic to avoid competition.
 
While it may be tempting to delay or block a competitor with legal maneuvers, I hope you understand Hilton Wilmington Riverside is part of a larger community. This action would hurt others in our region in the form of lost business, lost jobs and a lost opportunity to expose convention visitors to all the benefits of doing business in our region.
 
I’m sure most people in our community agree that Hilton Wilmington Riverside has mainly been a good neighbor. My business has hosted numerous events at your hotel, and I’ve recommended many people to stay there. Your employees are a pleasure to work with, and the facility is very nice, particularly with the improvements you’ve made in recent years.
 
But you’re on the wrong side of this issue.
 
In the long run, the Hilton – like many other local businesses – will financially benefit from a Convention Center hotel. More statewide and regional conventions coming to Wilmington will result in not only the immediate boost from convention visitors, but also the long-term benefit of attendees returning for vacations, more business meetings and potentially setting up local offices.
 
All those benefits, of course, will result in more local hotels rooms being occupied.
 
Our community battled many things for many years to build a Convention Center and adjacent hotel, including inertia, lawsuits and a bruising economy. We are now on the cusp of getting the final part of the project done.
 
I suggest you not stand in the way of progress for our community.
 
Your attorney warned the city was going “headlong into trouble.” You may want to consider the reverse. I hear those soccer moms and YMCA kids can get pretty aggressive.
 
Sincerely,
Rob Kaiser
Publisher
Greater Wilmington Business Journal
(910) 343-8600 x204
[email protected]
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