The board of the Washington Convention Center Authority delayed its vote again yesterday on recommendations for building the city's largest hotel, saying it wants more time to look at where it should go and how to pay for it.
It was the second time the eight-member board, which oversees the operation of the District's 2.3 million-square-foot convention center, postponed the vote. It had delayed action on Oct. 13 after Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) stepped in to ask for more time to read a Minneapolis consultant's report on the hotel.
"This will be a half-billion-dollar project; it's a complex issue and we want more time to look at it," said Jeffrey L. Humber Jr., chairman of the convention center board, after more than four hours in a closed-door session with board members.
Leaders of the board said that they expect to take a vote at their December meeting and that in the meantime they are likely to meet with the mayor and City Council members, who ultimately will decide the issue.
The board's delay drew concern from City Council member Harold Brazil (D), who leads the council's Committee on Economic Development.
"I do want it to move along without more delay," Brazil said. "They should make their recommendation soon. I know they want to be very deliberate and very thoughtful. They're wringing their hands, talking and thinking about it."
A coalition led by City Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp (D) wants the new hotel to be part of a 10.5-acre complex of housing, parks, restaurants, shops and offices planned for the site of the old, vacant convention center at New York Avenue and 11th Street NW.
But the mayor wants to build the hotel on a site at Ninth Street and Massachusetts Avenue NW, next to the city's new, $850 million convention center at Mount Vernon Square.
The debate, which has been going on for two years, is about finances as well as location. The mayor wants to use tax-exempt bonds -- and some of the savings to be gained if the city refinances its convention center -- to pay for construction of the hotel.
Cropp and some of the eight members of the convention center board argue that it would be less expensive to build it at the site of the old convention center because the city already owns the land.
The delay is holding up negotiations between developer Hines Interests LP and the city on what exactly it will build at the site of the old center.
"It's now holding up both deals, and we need resolution so we can get them moving," Brazil said. "We've got groups who want to meet here but say they won't sign on the dotted line to come until they can be assured we have a [large] hotel."
At its public meeting yesterday, the convention center board released the 161-page report by consultant Conventions Sports & Leisure of Minneapolis. The center's board paid $327,000 for the report.
The report does not specify which site is better, but it lays out six different scenarios of where to put the hotel, how big it should be and how to pay for it.
The study says building the hotel on the Ninth Street site that the mayor prefers could cost $435 million because more land would need to be purchased to make that location work for a large hotel and meeting space. That is more than the $352 million the study estimates it would cost to build a roughly 1,200-room hotel with some meeting and ballroom space at the old convention center site.