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Commissioners await decision on Marriott franchising

by Eplunus Colvin | October 26, 2022 at 4:07 a.m.
The Pine Bluff Convention Center is shown in this undated photo.

Let the countdown begin, as the Civic Auditorium Complex commissioners anticipate the future of the Pine Bluff Convention Center hotel.

During Tuesday's meeting, Convention Center Executive Director Joseph McCorvey informed commissioners that in three weeks he would know if the hotel would become a well-known franchise -- the Marriott.

"November 14, the Marriott will pick up the application," said McCorvey, who is also anticipating their response.

The Pine Bluff Urban Renewal Agency bought the Plaza Hotel, which is connected to the Convention Center, for $1.2 million in 2019. The five-story, 200-unit, 175,000-square-foot Plaza Hotel opened in 1988 as the Wilson World Hotel but has fallen into disrepair.

Recently a resolution was approved allowing McCorvey to negotiate and coordinate with the chairman or designate of the Public Facilities Board to complete and submit to Marriott Hotels an application for a hotel franchise, and settle on the terms of necessary interlocal agreements. The Public Facilities Board, comprising five individuals, will be given ownership of the hotel and will carry out the lease according to McCorvey. Creation of the board, which consists of William Bridgforth, Suzzette Goldmon, Kemma Rhodes, Letrece Harris and Marty Casteel, was approved by the City Council in June through an ordinance.

It's been a long time coming for McCorvey, who originally advocated for a Hilton brand hotel but explained last year that Hilton decided not to go with Pine Bluff because they felt the city was still underdeveloped in the downtown area but that Marriott has expressed an interest in signing on to the project.

A year later, there are hopes that the Convention Center hotel will help the city attract conventions, business and church conferences, sporting events and other activities.

McCorvey has cited the poor condition of the building and design elements that were popular 35 or 40 years ago, but have since fallen out of favor for reasons of aesthetics or safety.

The issue with the success and the marketability of the Pine Bluff Convention Center is that it was lacking a hotel in order to attract tournaments and conferences. With neighboring competition from cities like White Hall and Stuttgart, attendees of Pine Bluff events would have a local option for lodging.

McCorvey has often pointed out that in order to further promote tourism and economic development and realize the sale, advertising, and promotion taxes to be generated, the city and the commission believe that the hotel must undergo substantial renovation.

Commissioners expressed sentiments of excitement during Tuesday's meeting with plans to celebrate at their November meeting what they hope to be good news from McCorvey after Marriott makes its decision.

Beechwood Pinnacle Hotels, a Little Rock hotel management and development company, will oversee development of the hotel property if Marriott chooses to move forward with the Convention Center Hotel.

Print Headline: PB waits for hotel franchise decision

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