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Convention Center hotel under review

by Eplunus Colvin | October 27, 2021 at 2:56 a.m.
The Plaza Hotel near the Pine Bluff Convention Center is shown in this file photo. (Pine Bluff Commercial/Eplunus Colvin)

The Civic Auditorium Complex Commission discussed the Convention Center Plaza Hotel during its regularly scheduled monthly meeting Tuesday.

Pine Bluff Convention Center Executive Director Joseph McCorvey informed the commission that Jane Rogers, vice president of HVS Global Hospitality Services, was in Pine Bluff for the day performing a feasibility study on the Convention Center hotel.

According to McCorvey, HVS is the only global consulting firm focused exclusively on the hospitality industry with more than 250 people in over 50 offices throughout the world.

"They offer expertise across all types of hospitality assets, including hotels, restaurants and casinos," McCorvey said

Earlier this month the Pine Bluff City Council voted in favor of a resolution regarding the issuance of bonds for the renovation or reconstruction of the Plaza Hotel.

The City Council authorized the issuance of bonds for the purpose of providing revenue for the Pine Bluff Civic Auditorium Complex Commission to reinvent the Plaza Hotel, provided that a feasibility study supports the financial viability of the hotel. McCorvey expects the feasibility study to be available in the next four weeks.

Originally advocating for a Hilton brand, McCorvey explained previously that Hilton decided not to go with Pine Bluff because hotel representatives felt that the city was still underdeveloped in the downtown area but that Marriott has expressed an interest in signing onto the project.

Because of the changing of hotel brands and the occupancy amount, the feasibility study that was done earlier in the year is no longer valid.

The city has approved a development agreement with the P3 Group. P3 would be responsible for overseeing the demolition and reconstruction or the renovation of the hotel, in accordance with plans and specifications agreed to by and between the commission and the city.

The feasibility study will be used to determine whether it makes more economic sense to renovate the hotel or tear it down and build something new from the ground up.

But before P3 Group can move forward in the bond market, the feasibility study must be done and prove that the hotel will be profitable or the bond won't be issued.

"Right now we are in a holding pattern waiting for that work to be completed," said McCorvey.

In other business, the status of upgrading the kitchen with new equipment was in question by one of the commissioners. According to McCorvey, he was still waiting to hear if funding from a grant could be used for that project.

In July the Convention Center was awarded $869,610 in the form of a Shuttered Venue Operators Grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration. According to a news release, the agency offered more than $7.5 billion to more than 10,000 "hard-hit" live entertainment small businesses, nonprofits and venues.

The grant provides $699,897 to go toward personal service, $23,437 toward supplies and $146,276 for "other" needs.

According to McCorvey $126,000 was appropriated for maintenance that once clarified from the Small Business Administration, he can use to purchase the kitchen equipment.

McCorvey would like to have the project completed by February with several events scheduled to take place, including the recent announcement of the Frankie Beverly and Maze concert.

While briefing the commissioners on the Oct. 16 homecoming concert, he let them know that the Frankie Beverly and Maze show, which was canceled last year because of covid-19, has been rescheduled for April 23.

"We know that the Frankie Beverly concert will be a big one," said McCorvey who added that the homecoming concert gave his staff members the practice they needed.

McCorvey said the feedback that he received from all those who attended the homecoming concert was positive and that the metal detectors were a great addition to the Convention Center's security.

"The concert went well without incident," said McCorvey.

McCorvey plans to have totals and figures available for the commission to review at the next meeting to show the profits made from the homecoming concert. The Convention Center staff has also submitted its concerns and issues that staffers feel need addressing before the next big event.

Print Headline: Convention Center hotel under review

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