The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

8 May 2004

Without reservations

The bill for restoration of the downtown Skirvin Hotel is now calculated at $46.4 million.

The City Council will consider the package next week. Under the final agreement, the city will lend the Skirvin Partners development team $18.4 million; should the reborn Skirvin Hilton be staggeringly successful, the city stands to turn a tidy profit, and if the hotel is a total flop, the city will be on the hook for only about $4 million.

I doubt seriously it will flop. During the somnolent years, we got by with one downtown hotel; new development is now supporting three, and the two new arrivals in 2006 not only the Skirvin, but also an Embassy Suites on the eastern edge of Bricktown fit into the dreams of downtown planners with surprising precision.

The Convention and Visitors Bureau has projected that for Oklahoma City to compete for major regional conventions and for sporting events like the Big 12 basketball tournament or the NCAA regionals there should be 1250 to 1500 hotel rooms available near downtown. Right now, there are 931: 395 at the Westin, 311 at the Renaissance, 225 at the Courtyard by Marriott. There will be 245 suites at the Embassy, and the plan for the Skirvin calls for 238 rooms, bringing the total as of mid-2006 to 1414.

You know, this could work.

Posted at 10:08 AM to City Scene

What's the opportunity cost? How much economic prosperity would we have had if that money had stayed in the hands of regular people?

Furthermore, if getting the Skirvin back in business is such a good idea, why can't they get anyone to invest voluntarily?

There's a restaurant out in Bethany called Harbor House. It was originally Firehouse, and the city talked some people into abandoning their well-established restaurant to go into Firehouse. Those folks mortgaged their house to make a go of it. Firehouse, though, was undercapitalized, and only lasted a little over a year. Bethany got a great restaurant site out of the deal, but these people were wiped out in the process. Did they make a mistake? Sure. But they did it because the municipal politicos talked them into it. Bethany got Barry Switzer to take the place and put in one of his Chicken Ranch restaurants. In fact, they gave multi-millionaire Switzer a pile of cash as a lure. Switzer stayed just long enough so that he wouldn't have to pay any back, and then skedaddled. I'm not sure if Harbor House is staying or if one side is about to screw the other. I am absolutely certain that subsidizing business and molding the economic climate to the whims of politicians is a dirty cesspool of corruption and waste.

Posted by: Chris at 12:25 PM on 8 May 2004

Having spent some time in a literal cesspool, I believe I am warranted in saying "Ewwwwwwww..."

Think of it as gaming the system. In the best of all possible worlds, it would never occur to any governmental organization to provide anything that looks even slightly like a subsidy to the private sector. In the absence of this level of universal enlightenment, though, the game is going to get played, and I figure the least I can do is to encourage it to be played well.

Now how do you get fifty states and however many municipalities to reach this laissez-faire nirvana?

Posted by: CGHill at 1:56 PM on 8 May 2004

...the game is going to get played, and I figure the least I can do is to encourage it to be played well.

Well, we ain't gonna get to the best of all possible worlds with that attitude.

Posted by: Chris at 4:39 PM on 8 May 2004