The center may open in March 2016 if all goes according to plan, Steve Moffett, of Garfield Traub Development, told the council after they emerged from executive session.
Council members voted unanimously to enter into a professional services contract with Garfield Traub to allow the company to assist the city with pre-development activities, document negotiations and design and construction of the facility.
The total expected cost of the facility would be about $50 million, but it will depend on the final design, city spokeswoman Susan Guthrie said.
It is estimated that nearly 20,000 visits are lost each year because Tyler does not have the facilities to accommodate them, according to information from the city. Moffett said that such a center would allow medical conferences and other meetings to come to the city.
The hotel conference center would be built with 66 percent private funding, and the remainder would come from the city’s hotel tax revenue.
“Only a small portion of this project would be financed with public funds, and those would come from hotel tax revenue,” Mayor Bass said.
Moffett said the hotel owner would be paying for the hotel, and the city would not be contributing to the cost.
“The city can step away (from the process) at any time,” Jim Plumber, an attorney with the city, told the council. The city would only need to pay any consultant’s fees owed if the agreement was terminated, Plumber said.
Moffett said a location has not yet been selected, and the decision would primarily come from whoever will own the hotel. “It will be close to amenities such as entertainment and shopping,” he said. Moffett added that the Marriott and Embassy Suites hotel chains were possibilities for the center.
Moffett presented the council with a timetable for the design and building of the conference center, which will happen in phases.
Hotels near the conference center could provide overflow space for event guests, and the 250-room hotel could be expanded as needed, Moffett said.
From August until February 2014, there will be budget and capital plan updates, and the actual design will be presented for the center, Moffett told the council.
“Let’s be very cautious about this and protect the community at every step,” Councilman Martin Heines, who represents District 4, said at the meeting.
The proposed conference and hotel center does not include an event center, which city officials discussed during the summer. City Manager Mark McDaniel said in December that an event center could not be built at this time without using taxpayer money, and that city officials did not want to use those funds from residents.
The council also heard an update from City Planner Heather Nick about the renaming of the Tyler Comprehensive Plan, formerly known as Tyler 21. The plan will now be known as Tyler 1st.
The plan, launched in 2007, will continue to address issues such as downtown revitalization, historic preservation, parks and recreation, transportation and housing and neighborhoods.
“This month, we will launch a comprehensive five-year review of the plan. We have already begun preliminary work and analysis and are eager to involve the community in updating the plan,” Ms. Nick said.
A steering committee has been formed and will meet for the first time on Jan. 30, she said.
McDaniel also announced several organizational changes in the city during the City Manager update, with the appointment of a new chief financial officer, assistant city manager and manager for the solid waste and vehicle services departments.
Keidric Trimble, who has been serving as acting chief financial officer since the retirement of Daniel Crawford in May, is now appointed to that position permanently. Trimble, who began with the city as an accountant in 1999, has a bachelor’s degree in business administration and is enrolled in the master of public administration program at The University of Texas at Tyler. Trimble’s new salary will be $112,000 annually.
Russ Jackson has been appointed manager of the Solid Waste and Vehicle Services Departments due to the impending retirement of Dan Brotton. Jackson has been with the city since 1986 when he began working for the Police Department communications group. He went on to become a supervisor until 1996 when he transferred to the Vehicle Services Department. In 2005 he was appointed fleet manager where he has served for the last seven years. Jackson’s new salary will be $80,000 annually.