Archive for Creative Real Estate Financing

Garfield Traub Development DPAC Rated #1 Top-Selling Theater in U.S.

DPAC also rated #2 top-selling theater in the world

DPAC

Durham Performing Arts Center - Durham, NC

The Durham Performing Arts Center (DPAC), developed by Garfield Traub in partnership with Chapel Hill architect Szostak Design in Durham, North Carolina, has proven itself yet again against the best of the best and is now rated #1 by trade publication Pollstar as the top-selling theater in the U.S. for the first half of 2012.

If that were not impressive enough, DPAC scored the #2 position in the top 100 selling theaters in the world, second only to Mexico City’s Auditorio Nacional.  And since the rationale for the development of the DPAC was doubted by many prior to its opening in 2008, this is a very special achievement for all those involved in the DPAC from development to delivery.

“It all starts with great shows, and for us to have two big multi-week blockbusters in the same season really tipped the attendance scales”, said Bob Klaus, DPAC’s General Manager in the Durham News Service. “It’s a credit to Nederlander and PFM and the great shows they bring us, this will truly be a season to remember.”

Today the attendance statistics have been released for DPAC’s 2011-2012 season, which includes 200 performances bringing in a total of 417,180 guests and 67 total sellouts. The highest attended shows were Radio City Christmas Spectacular with 38 performances and Wicked with 32 performances.

“We at Garfield Traub are extremely proud of what the DPAC has accomplished,” said Garfield Traub Principal Greg Garfield. “It is an honor to be able to say we participated in the development of the project, and we could not be happier for all those involved.”

Since the opening of the DPAC in 2008, the theater has consistently ranked on the top of Pollstar’s top-selling theater rankings, but has also won other awards such as:

  • Numerous local Reader’s Choice Awards
  • The Independent Weekly’s “Best of” winner for Best Theater Venue – 4th Consecutive Year
  • The Herald Sun’s Reader’s Choice Award for Best Live Entertainment – 4th Consecutive Year
  • Raleigh’s Metro Magazine’s Standing Ovation for Best Theater – 3rd Consecutive Year
  • Durham Magazine – Best Place for Live Music and Best Place for Live Theater – 2nd Consecutive Year
  • And #3 in gross ticket sales among venues with a capacity of 5,000 or under in the soon to be published July 28th mid-year charts for Billboard Magazine.

Since the DPAC’s opening in 2008, 520 ticketed events have been presented drawing in more than one million attendees.  For more information about the DPAC and how it was successfully developed, visit the Garfield Traub website.

Public Private Partnerships Investment and Development Opportunities

Economic reports have shown a stagnant job market and a fairly broad-based contraction in public sector construction during the month of March. This contraction reflects cuts to infrastructure investment structures, now that state and local governments have tightened their belts and the activity of the 2009 Federal fiscal stimulus has played out.

The lack of job and economic growth will continue to impact development activity in most sectors, including public institutions. These institutions cannot (or do not want to) use their tax-exempt bonding capacity to finance real estate assets. Traditional real estate lenders are cautious, have strict underwriting requirements, and in some cases, are using floating rate debt to finance assets. And, the parameters for the CMBS market are still quite conservative.

In order to obtain financing, it may be time to explore non-traditional alternatives. The Credit Tenant Lease form of financing offers a solution through competitively priced, long-term fixed-rate debt
and a faster closing process.  CTL applies to municipal, state, and federal government real estate developments and assets, as well as universities, public schools, healthcare, office, retail and specialty real estate.

CTL loans are based on the investment-grade credit rating of the tenant. The real estate is collateral and secondary in the credit matrix. These loans give owners, developers, and clients with investment-grade credit tenants the opportunity to finance the development and hold the property for the long term. With proceeds up to 100% LTV, and long-term, non-recourse debt, CTL loans minimize equity requirements and limit liability.

The current capital market environment offers an excellent time to take advantage of the benefits offered through the CTL loan program. Each CTL loan is structured as a private placement bond. Investor demand for these bonds exceeds supply, driving down loan spreads. This, in combination with low Treasury rates, has pricing at or near historic lows.

CTL loans offer the following advantages:

•  Loan proceeds up to 100% LTV
•  Non-recourse debt
•  Very competitive rates
•  Long-term, fixed-rate debt
•  Assumable debt on sale or transfer
•  Ability to prepay loan (at make-whole)
•  Rate lock up to 60 days prior to closing
•  Construction/Perm loan opportunity

Mesirow Financial specializes in CTL financing, utilizing direct access to CTL debt sources through its 120-person institutional sales group covering 1,200 institutional accounts.  This coverage facilitates real-time, accurate, and competitive pricing with superior execution.  With these advantages, Mesirow strives to provide its clients with optimal pricing and the most favorable terms.

Garfield Traub has an abundant amount of experience in financing public developments despite the economic downturn throughout the U.S. If you would like to learn more about how your public agency can get your essential developments financed contact Garfield Traub and we will be happy to help.

Public Private Partnerships in the Travel Industry

What makes a city great? What sets a city apart from others in attracting new industry, new growth, civic pride, and robust economic development? We have found over and over that the magnet that draws business and tourism is most often found in the heart of the city, its convention center. Although the travel industry, like so many other facets of an economy, is vulnerable to the economic cycles that periodically impact the nation, it is vital for a city to be able to constantly attract conventions, association meetings, exhibitions, leaders of industry, and tourism in general.

Top Factors in Choosing an Event Location

Source: 2006 Meetings Market Report, Meetings and Conventions Magazine

Certainly, being located in an inviting climate and an accessible part of a region and the nation is important to a city’s success. So, too, is having modern infrastructure and attractions, such as museums, performing arts centers, sports, and entertainment activities to enhance the allure for business associations, as well as the casual traveler. Keep in mind also that the first introduction to a city for prospective business leaders who might decide to relocate headquarters or establish regional offices in your city may be their experience when they attend a conference or convention at your convention center.

When reviewing the top reasons for choosing a particular event location, group planning experts determined some years ago that second only to a city having a modern convention center with the available meeting space needed by its group,
is the number of quality hotel rooms attached or adjacent to the convention center. If your city has no modern and attached or adjacent headquarters hotel with “room blocks” available for a majority of convention delegates, planners are likely to select another city that offers that critical combination. This is supported by numerous exit interviews of groups that cite the lack of a dedicated onsite hotel as the reason they selected one convention destination over another.

Approximately 50 cities have successfully built, expanded, or modernized their convention centers and developed connected headquarters hotels over the past decade, and about half of them have used public private partnerships to accomplish those developments. Surprisingly, about another 50 cities have tried
and failed to develop the headquarters hotels so essential to ensuring the success of their convention centers. Those cities that succeeded in completing their developments have several characteristics in common, just as those that have failed have very similar stories about why they are still on the outside looking in. What separates success from failure in funding this vital economic engine for a city?

First, this undertaking can be highly politicized and controversial. The public must be informed as to the benefits to the city of the development, and all-too-common disinformation campaigns by narrow interests opposing such a development should be addressed head-on. There is room for debate about the right approach for a city to take in funding, developing, operating, and maintaining the facilities given political, legal, and economic factors, but there is no denying the benefits of having competitive, modern public assembly facilities and related headquarters hotels. Those cities that have recognized this and value their ability to “sell” their city as a convention destination, know they must build and maintain their public assembly facilities, which must include a headquarters hotel, to be successful.

Tangible benefits of such a development include tens of thousands of new annual visitors, who stay two or three days in the city and spend money on hotels, transportation, dining, entertainment, and shopping. Millions of dollars in annual visitor spending creates jobs, generates substantial tax revenue, and stimulates development of related, private mixed-use development. The incremental travel-related tax revenue is more “profitable” than property taxes, due to the limited burden of visitors on city infrastructure—like police and fire departments, schools, and hospitals—when compared to community residents. Increased tourism-related tax revenue bolsters other revenue to operate the entire city and reduces reliance on resident property taxes.

Returns to the public from a development of this nature are real and substantial—but public investment is required to realize the benefits. Too many cities, however, have failed to recognize or have tried to deny the obvious—the substantial cost of designing and constructing a full-service, first-class headquarters hotel including all the extra meeting space required, versus the limitations on adequate revenue to pay the mortgage and provide an appropriate return to the owner. Those cities too often succumb to the “best sounding” solution—the promise of little to no public financial support asked by developers,
who hope to be selected and to amend their low-budget targets by asking the
city for more money once plans and pricing show the real costs. The loss of time associated with a failed procurement alone hurts the city immeasurably when conventions are lost for three, five, or ten years. But the loss of confidence in civic leadership can be even more devastating through dashed community hopes and aspirations and broken promises to develop those facilities.

Overton Hotel and Conference Center

Overton Hotel and Conference Center, Lubbock, TX

Two recent examples of public private partnerships that have been boons to their cities are the Overton Hotel and Conference Center in Lubbock, Texas, and the Durham Performing Arts Center in downtown Durham, North Carolina. The Overton in Lubbock is that city’s first full-service, first-class conference hotel, situated across University Boulevard from Texas Tech University. It not only serves as Lubbock’s modern conference center, but is also the teaching facility for one of Texas Tech’s restaurant hotel investment management classes. The project financing included grants funded by foundations supporting Texas Tech, a Lubbock city bond issue, plus equity and debt raised by the private development team.

Since the Overton Hotel and Conference Center opened in August 2009, Lubbock has been able to attract associations that have either never hosted an event in Lubbock, or have not done so in many years. Examples of these groups are the Texas Apartment Association, the Texas Payroll Conference, and the Texas Hospital Association. In Fiscal Year 2010-2011, 17 of the top 20 room night-producing events hosted in Lubbock used the Overton Hotel and Conference Center as their headquarters facility. The Overton Hotel and Conference Center has allowed the Visit Lubbock staff to provide decision-makers with more options in facility space and facility features. Lubbock is also seeing an increase in repeat business from groups that experienced the first-class service provided
by the Overton staff.

Durham Performing Arts Center (DPAC)

Durham Performing Arts Center - Durham, NC

Similarly, the Durham Performing Arts Center, or DPAC, is a public private partnership in which the capital necessary to finance the facility included Durham city bonds amortized by revenue from a portion of citywide hotel occupancy taxes, a grant from Duke University, and naming rights Theater operations and promotion of events and talent are handled by a private sector theater operator. Profits are shared between the operator and the city, with the operator guaranteeing a minimum number of annual events and no operating loss risk for the city. This award-winning touring Broadway Theater was ranked number 9 in attendance among U.S. theaters by Pollstar in 2010, and number 4 in 2011, and generates $28 million in annual economic impact to the City of Durham.

Financing public assembly facilities and related hotels is an activity that mayors and city councils, even city managers, may undertake only once in their public lives. The costs of designing and building these facilities are significant, and the economics of operating and paying for these facilities is complex to grasp. Hence the need for public private partnerships and the selection of well-qualified developers, consultants, and other specialists to help lead the city in understanding these facilities and their financial structures and to help ensure their successful completion. We are aware of a number of Texas cities that are wisely taking these steps in considering or planning public assembly facilities and headquarters hotels, following the example of cities like Lubbock and Durham.
Ray Garfield is a principal of Garfield Traub, a development services firm focused exclusively on essential public facilities. For more information, please visit www.garfieldtraub.com or e-mail rgarfield@garfieldtraub.com.

Click here for the original print out as seen in the April Edition of Texas Town and City Magazine: Private-Public Partnerships in the Travel Industry

EB-5 Program – Creating Foreign Investment With Visas

In the interest of fair and balanced reporting, we thought this April 15, 2012 New York Times article by Ann Lee of Demos on “Visas-for-Dollars” is deserving of everyone’s attention.  As our firm intends to be in the market later this year and into next year raising EB-5 funds for a portion of the financing of a new hotel and conference center for a California city, we want to do what we can to draw attention to the need for transparency in all transactions.

Making Visas-for-Dollars Work

By ANN LEE as posted in The New York Times
Published: April 15, 2012

EB-5 Program Creating VisasAMONG the most popular tools for attracting foreign investment to the United States is the EB-5 program. It seems like the perfect win-win: any foreigner who invests between $500,000 and $1 million here, and creates at least 10 domestic jobs from that investment within two years, gets a green card.

Given how many high-worth investors are clamoring to enter the United States, the EB-5 program could have a significant effect on American unemployment. Indeed, it has brought in some $1 billion over the last fiscal year, and the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness has called for the EB-5 program to be “radically” expanded over the next few years.

Unfortunately, the program is so rife with fraud and corruption that it could actually have the opposite impact and deter investment. To regain its credibility, the program must make a number of changes to enable more transparency and demand more competence from its operators.

The most egregious problems with the EB-5 program can be found in its 218 regional centers, which work with private-sector brokers to identify local investments and direct foreign participants to them. Examples abound of centers and brokers playing down risky investments and misrepresenting how the program works, including a promise that EB-5 investments are guaranteed by the federal government — when the government in fact does nothing of the sort. Many investments have failed to create the required 10 jobs and even gone bankrupt, leaving the investor without his money or his green card.

While many EB-5 regional centers have solid records, a disturbing number have directed investor money to risky projects and companies that pay little to no return, overseen by brokers who get a commission regardless of how the investment plays out.

Aside from accusations of outright fraud, there is also a clear lack of understanding among government administrators about how to manage an investment program. As a result, they often approve businesses that are simple to understand, like a condo development or a grocery store, but whose business models don’t generate enough profit to hire workers, while rejecting more sophisticated businesses that stand a greater potential of generating profits and jobs.

For the time being, these problems haven’t turned the tide of interest in the EB-5 program. But that could change: recent high-profile investigations by Reuters and Businessweek, as well as a warning against fraudulent brokers by the Chinese Supreme People’s Court, could start having a significant deterrent effect, especially since other countries, like Canada, are following America’s lead with their own versions of the program.

Fortunately, the solutions are straightforward. The federal government needs to rein in freewheeling brokers with heavier penalties for misrepresenting investments, hire more business-savvy administrators and make the entire process more transparent, so that applicants know why their money was accepted or rejected.

The EB-5 program has a lot of promise to reduce unemployment, and the White House is right to call for its expansion. Rather than end it, let’s fix it.

Ann Lee is a senior fellow at Demos and the author of “What the U.S. Can Learn From China.”

If you would like to see how Garfield Traub Development can help you get your essential developments financed with the EB-5 program, please contact us.

EB-5 Money – Commercial Real Estate Funding Solution

Garfield Traub Development is pleased to call your attention to a very informative article authored by Bob Voelker of the Dallas based law firm, Munsch Hardt Kopf & Harr, P.C.  Bob is one of the most respected real estate attorneys in the country, and well versed in development financing methodologies including EB-5 and New Markets Tax Credits among many others.  This article on EB-5 essentials is very timely.  Accessing cost efficient international funds as part of an overall capital structure for essential facilities for the public sector enables projects to not only proceed but to succeed.  Indeed, we at Garfield Traub are using these funds to complete funding on target developments across the nation, especially hotels and conference centers in key cities.  As accessing these funds in China and in other nations is becoming more and more active and a number of new developments are in the international marketplace simultaneously, we only consider using this funding for developments in first or second tier communities, where those communities are also investing in these P3 or Public/Private ventures, and where other “quality” elements exist to establish a strong story to enable strong acceptance.

Please enjoy this article.

Bob Voelker: Foreigner Investors Filling Real Estate Funding Gap

Several local real estate projects are securing gap financing by luring foreign investors to create American jobs in exchange for U.S. visas. Most of this money is coming from China under a U.S. Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS) program known as EB-5. As this is a financing tool relatively new to North Texas, I have laid out the basics of EB-5 below.

Q. What is an EB-5 Visa?

A. EB-5 is an immigrant investor visa category created for foreign nationals who invest in a U.S. business that creates at least 10 full-time jobs. An EB-5 applicant will receive a visa for himself or herself, his or her spouse, and all of their children under the age of 21. The USCIS will issue a conditional visa within five-eight months of application by an EB-5 investor, as long as the investor and the project are qualified. If the investment project fulfills the job creation criteria after two years, the investor can obtain permanent resident status, and can apply for U.S. citizenship in five years.

Q. What is the criteria  for an EB-5 Visa?

A. In order to qualify for an EB-5 Visa, an investor must invest at least $500,000 in a “targeted employment area” (as discussed below) in an enterprise that will create at least 10 new full-time jobs for U.S. citizens and legal residents per $500,000 investment. Foreign investors usually purchase limited partnership interests in a limited partnership made up of multiple investors seeking EB-5 visas, with the partnership being controlled by the EB-5 Regional Center (which in essence acts as the “syndicator”). This limited partnership then invests in the entity that controls the project.

Q. What is a Regional Center?

A. A Regional Center is an entity created to sponsor projects for EB-5 investors and approved by the USCIS. There are currently more than 175 Regional Centers.

Q. How are EB-5 investors secured?

A. The EB-5 Regional Centers have well developed networks of foreign brokers and licensed emigration agents who raise financing for EB-5 projects, usually through seminars attended by foreign investors.

Q. What are EB-5 investors looking for in an EB-5 investment?

A. EB-5 investors are looking to obtain two primary objectives: 1) their visas, which are obtained through the project creating the number of jobs promised in the business plan, and 2) a reasonable likelihood of the return of their investment in five or six years. Secondarily, EB-5 investors and the Regional Centers are looking for a small rate of return on their investment—frequently from 1-5 percent plus, depending on the structure, a small back-end interest in the project (which can be subordinated to debt repayment and returns to other equity partners).

Q. What is a Targeted Employment Area?

A. A targeted employment area is any city, county, census tract or other geographical area or political subdivision accepted by the USCIS that has an unemployment rate that’s more than 150 percent of the national average rate, or a “rural area.” A rural area is an area outside a metropolitan statistical area or outer boundary of any city or town having a population of 20,000 or more. Although at first blush this would seem to allow the use of EB-5 financing only for rural projects and urban projects in impoverished areas, we have found after evaluating a large number of proposed project sites that a large percent of urban areas qualify.

Q. What is the process?

A. The process of qualifying a project for EB-5 investment is as follows. It typically takes about nine to 12 months to complete:

• Determine if the site qualifies as a targeted employment area.

• Provide project information including description and proformas to the Regional Center.

• Negotiate a term sheet with the Regional Center outlining the amount and terms of the investment. The Regional Center hires an economist who determines the number of jobs that will be directly or indirectly created by the project (and thus sizing the total EB-5 capital limit).

• Work with other debt and equity financing sources to make certain the EB-5 terms and conditions coordinate with other financing terms.

• The project sponsor and the Regional Center negotiate the investment documents.

• The Regional Center (working together with the project sponsor) prepares the investment partnership documentation and an offering memorandum and business plan outlining the investment and submits same to the USCIS for approval.

• The documents are translated into the foreign language and the Regional Center markets the investment overseas through foreign brokers.

• The foreign investors make application to the USCIS for their visas and place deposits in escrow with the Regional Center.

• The USCIS processes the visa applications.

• The USCIS approves the visa applications.

• The approved foreign investors close their investment in the investment partnership, which in turn invests in the project partnership. These investments are sometimes made while the visa applications are being processed, but are returnable if visa approval is denied by the USCIS.

Securing these funds overseas is a complex and time-consuming process, but for real estate projects that will be in development for a lengthy period, and where the EB-5 raise will be in excess of $5 million, the process may be worthwhile given EB-5’s low cost of capital (versus traditional real estate mezzanine debt/equity).

To find out more about how EB-5 money can help you fund your commercial real estate developments, contact Garfield Traub, 972-716-3838.

Fundamentals of Economic Development Finance: Second Edition

Fundamentals of Economic Development Finance

Fundamentals of Economic Development Finance

We highly recommend the recently-published Fundamentals of Economic Development Finance: Second Edition, authored by Susan Giles Bischak. Ms. Giles Bischak is President and Founding Principal of Giles & Company Strategic Business Consultants and instructor for Economic Development Finance in the Distance Learning Program at the University of California, Los Angeles, and has served as an Adjunct Professor at Stanford University Graduate School of Business and the University of Southern California, School of Policy and Development.

This excellent book provides a “hands on” approach for public/private partnerships and lays out tools for policymakers, community leaders, developers, and lenders to prepare and evaluate strategic business plans to attract private investment dollars. Ms. Giles Bischak walks the reader through each step of the financial plan starting with the project proposal, setting goals and objectives, organization development, venture selection, financial analysis, risk assessment for all parties involved, and project implementation. This book includes case studies, real-world examples and exercises, a glossary of terms, and steps to prepare a business plan. The book is used as an academic tool and for seminars with policy makers.

Ray Garfield of Garfield Traub was privileged to be a contributor in Ms. Giles Bischak’s book. Garfield Traub’s early and ongoing successes nationally in overcoming economic, legal and political hurdles to essential public developments through innovative financing and delivery methods are discussed in Chapter 5, “Fundamentals of Economic Development Finance.” Garfield Traub’s white paper entitled “Municipal Lease-Purchase Financing and Certificates of Participation,” is cited as a resource for key elements of this chapter.

Purchase Fundamentals of Economic Development Finance here.

Public Private Partnerships (P3s) Solving Government Budget Deficits

Public Private Partnerships (P3)As Government budget deficits continue to climb for state, local and federal Governments, you will hear much more about the utilization of Public Private Partnerships, also known as, “P3s” or “PPP” to solve this problem. P3 projects are quickly rising in popularity due to the success of obtaining funds to renew Government infrastructure, improve transportation, and construct new projects that they could not afford before.

Public Private Partnership (P3) projects involve a contract between a public sector authority and a private party, in which the private party provides a public service or project and assumes substantial financial, technical and operational risk in the project. In some types of PPP projects, the cost of using the provided services is given exclusively by the users of the service and not by the more traditional method of using the taxpayer.

But why would a private company assume such a huge risk?

Like any investment with large risk, there is a great opportunity for an invested private business to make a lot of money. With Public Private Partnerships (P3s), revenues can be in the form of either a fee for service, paid by government, or fees collected from users, as in the case of highway tolls, automatically ticketed red lights, or hotels attached to convention centers.

One example of a development company successfully using Public Private Partnerships structured to benefit various parties, is Garfield Traub Development. Garfield Traub Development has developed over 40 hotels using primarily P3 funding. One example specifically is the Overton Hotel and Convention Center located in Lubbock, TX. This 303-room hotel with a 47,000 gross square-foot conference center is located across the street from Texas Tech University and Jones AT&T Stadium in Overton Park, the largest private redevelopment project in U.S. history, to date.

The hotel was financed with private debt and equity. The conference center was financed with City bonds to be repaid by site-specific occupancy taxes and property taxes. The capital plan also included naming rights, room licenses and nonprofit foundation grants.

The City now leases the conference center on a long-term basis to the hotel owner who operates the entire property. In addition, the hotel also partnered with Texas Tech University’s Restaurant, Hotel, and Institutional Management (RHIM) program to provide hands-on laboratory experiences in a variety of areas that will truly benefit the RHIM students, giving them the opportunity to become successful professionals in the hospitality industry.

With P3s solving Government budget deficits and successfully creating development projects like these, it is no wonder that they are on the rise. It really is a win-win situation for everyone involved and creates a solution to a big problem.

If you want more information on how Public Private Partnerships (P3s) might help you, visit http://www.garfieldtraub.com or e-mail Garfield Traub.

Use Public/Tax-exempt Structure or Public/Private Structure?

Should you use Public/Tax-exempt Structure or Public/Private Structure when developing a big convention center hotel? Catherine Holmes, Partner at Jeffer, Mangels, Butler & Mitchell LLP, highlighted in a previous discussion of ours on our LinkedIn group, “Public Private Developments,” about how great the City of Dallas did in getting the Omni Dallas Hotel approved and financed. We would like to branch off her discussion as a Dallasite, and thank Catherine Holmes and everyone involved in getting the Omni Hotel under construction.

Without a headquarters hotel, Dallas had lost its ability to compete for conventions. Booking activity at the convention center since the hotel groundbreaking has been at recent historic highs. But Dallas’ structure was a Public finance structure (not Public/Private) using tax-exempt bonds and Build America Bonds (no longer available) with city guarantees. Indeed, it is our opinion that to finance a 1,000 room hotel development today, it must be a publicly owned and sponsored hotel.

One notable exception is the Omni Hotel getting ready to break ground in Nashville. Why? Omni brought a “deep pocket” and a “Brand, Owner-Operator” very aggressive approach in order to capture that assignment, an assignment previously awarded to another development/design/flag team that could not get the facility financed. Omni’s approach was more aggressive than 99% of the competition has been willing to do in the past for this type of development. Even with the larger equity and debt guarantee commitments, we have it on good authority that the City of Nashville contributed to Omni the land and infrastructure approximating $25 million in value, plus a 20 year tax abatement for 2/3′s of hotels taxes, itself valued at $100 million. That’s a heck of a subsidy for municipality to provide to a private developer. One has to ask the question of whether the City would have been financially better off in the long run to “own” the hotel like Dallas, Houston, Denver, Baltimore, Sacramento, Omaha, Overland Park and the dozen or so other cities who have made that public vs. public/private comparison and chose the former.

The traditional Public/Private financing structure used for hotels that support convention centers, conference centers, university or hospital campuses or airports, brings private equity and conventional debt and combines it with a public bond to complete the capital stack. Since banks were out of the lending business for new full service hotels until just recently, lately we’ve seen bank underwriting criteria showing a Loan to Cost constraint at 50% limited by big Debt Service Coverage ratios of 1.7X to 1.8X, yielding a true loan to cost of 35% to 40% or even less!

Additionally, the amount banks will loan on any one new hotel development is still volume constrained so that getting a bank syndicate together to bring much more that $50 to 60 million in a first mortgage is problematic. Trying to raise $150 million in bank debt for a 1,000 room hotel development is, at the moment, highly unlikely. If anyone knows differently, please comment. So I think that the “sweet-spot” for Public/Private hotel developments today is for smaller communities seeking 250 to 500 keys, while the larger hotels need to trend to the Public structure.

We were also asked by another fellow member, “Do you see municipalities moving in the select service direction–targeting multiple locations using municipal properties–to reduce cost while simultaneously adding to room count?”

Municipalities considering Select Service Hotels as a magnet for more tourism and the economic development it brings, are usually smaller communities where the cost of a Full Service Hotel is prohibitive. There are some excellent examples of Marriott Courtyards, Hilton Garden Inns and Hyatt Places which are connected to conference centers in the suburbs of major municipalities. Around Dallas, Garland, Allen and Lewisville have such properties which serve a vital community purpose.

But for those major communities that require a Full Service, First Class Hotel to support their convention center, they must first insure that an adaquate number of Full Service rooms exist in order to be able to optimally recruit conventions and compete with those cities that have everything Group Planners demand. Case in point is Pittsburgh where new Select Service hotels have opened near the David L. Lawrence Convention Center but haven’t increased booking to a measurable degree. The city has, for a decade, hoped to attract a developer to finance and build a Full Service headquarters hotel, to no avail. They need to learn from your own hometown of Baltimore, just how to support that sort of development. We hope you’ll agree that the Hilton Headquarters hotel has been a major draw for the improved success at the Baltimore Convention Center. 

We agree it makes sense to develop Select Service products in the shadow of a successful convention center or other event centers. Indeed, no less than 5 Select Service hotels began development once we broke ground on our Overland Park Sheraton and Convention Center outside of Kansas City, and today they provide a competitive lower price point for convention attendees. But it’s the City’s Sheraton that “seals the deal” to bring the conventions.

Our member was also correct in stating that construction lenders today are much more receptive to the Select Service model than a Full Service hotel. They’re simply more affordable and therefore less risky. But a danger point is the very fact that they are easier to finance and therefore that product can become overbuilt in an area, creating too much competition, lower rates and lower occupancy!

To see full discussion or more discussion like this one you can visit our LinkedIn group call Public Private Developments.

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