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Hotel board approves plan for Marriott in Pine Bluff

by Eplunus Colvin | August 2, 2023 at 3:28 a.m.
The Pine Bluff Hotel Public Facilities Board met Tuesday morning to approve a resolution authorizing the execution and delivery of a franchise agreement with Marriott International Inc., which is slated to franchise a Marriott Courtyard in place of the Plaza Hotel. (Pine Bluff Commercial/Eplunus Colvin)

The Pine Bluff Hotel Public Facilities Board met Tuesday morning to approve a franchise agreement with Marriott International Inc., which is slated to franchise a Marriott Courtyard in place of the Plaza Hotel.

The Pine Bluff Urban Renewal Agency purchased the Plaza Hotel in 2019.

The Hotel Public Facilities Board's goal is to repair and renovate the Convention Center and to facilitate the acquisition, construction and equipping of lodging on the hotel site, in the belief that the completion of both projects collectively will result in additional convention events.

A unanimous vote of the board -- chaired by Letrece Harris, vice-chair Suzzette Goldmon, secretary Kemma Rhodes and newly sworn-in board members Rosalind Mouser and Roland Watley -- approved the resolution agreement once the signature fields were corrected.

Mouser and Watley were sworn in by Circuit Judge Alex Guynn before the meeting. They took the place of the retired Marty Casteel and the late Bill Bridgforth, who was chairman of the board.

"We were trying to find people who had the same skill set as the two individuals," Pine Bluff Mayor Shirley Washington said. She added that Watley brings the financial background that Casteel possesses and Mouser brings the attorney skill set that Bridgforth had.

Because Bridgforth's signature lines remained on the franchise agreement that has been in possession of the franchise for several months, Little Rock attorney Gordon Wilbourn, who represents the hotel board, recommended that those items be changed before actually signing the agreement, which will also buy them some time while waiting on financing from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

"It has already been approved by Marriott and they are going to put some pressure on the board to sign it at some point," Wilbourn said. "Given this board has no funds, there will be no liability."

Wilbourn said the USDA is working on its end of the deal, which he believes will continue to move forward. He said the process has been delayed because of other matters such as employee vacations.

The price tag for the project is an estimated $24.1 million, including demolition of the five-story, 200-room Plaza Hotel, Pine Bluff Convention Center Executive Director Joseph McCorvey said in a previous interview.

The hotel is envisioned to have 125 rooms with a bistro.

The Plaza Hotel was built in 1988 as Wilson World but has not been in operation since falling into disrepair in recent years.

The deal calls for Marriott to manage the new hotel for 30 years. Money from the Go Forward Pine Bluff tax went toward Marriott's licensing fees and other costs.

The P3 Group, a public-private partnership developer behind many projects in Pine Bluff, sought out financing with Farmers Bank. Marriott will use Beechwood Pinnacle Hotels, a management and development company in Little Rock, for architecture and contractor work on the new Courtyard by Marriott at the location of the old Plaza Hotel next to the Pine Bluff Convention Center.

McCorvey broke down the contribution costs:

United States guaranteed loan: $18 million

Developer contribution (P3 Group/Marriott International): $1.9 million

City cash contribution (Go Forward Pine Bluff): $3 million

City land contribution: $1.2 million

Estimated total: $24.1 million

Washington said Farmers Bank was eager to jump on board with financing and added that USDA representatives made a site visit to Pine Bluff three weeks ago.

"The bank has done its due diligence and has sent off its package to the USDA for their approval," Wilbourn said. "We do have to get an allocation from the USDA."

Wilbourn said the P3 Group is looking at the senior part of the loan to get a USDA guarantee, which under that loan guarantees 80% and said the senior debt will have to be approved first.

He also said hotel revenue solely will secure the obligation with Marriott.

"If something doesn't go right with the hotel, there is no money to pay them," he said. "The city is not a part of this agreement, the Convention Center is not part of this agreement. It is solely secured with hotel revenue."

He also said there would be some junior debt that the P3 Group and Beechwood would hold but it wouldn't get paid until the senior group got paid.

According to Wilbourn, the agreement will not be operative until financing is secured.

McCorvey says everything still looks to be on schedule with financing for the project expected to be completed soon and construction to begin in September.

If everything goes to plan, the hotel will take 15 to 18 months to construct after demolition of the Plaza Hotel.

  photo  Pine Bluff Hotel Public Facilities Board members Roland Watley (left), Rosalind Mouser, Kemma Rhodes, Letrece Harris and Suzzette Goldmon. (Pine Bluff Commercial/Eplunus Colvin)

Print Headline: Hotel board approves plan for Marriott in PB


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