Cambria Suites to Build New Hotel in Pueblo, Colo.

Jan. 13--Pueblo's Urban Renewal Authority board agreed this week to help a developer build an $8.4 million hotel on land across from the existing Pueblo Convention Center and Marriott Hotel on Santa Fe Avenue.

The agency will reimburse the developer $1.1 million during the project for costs such as sidewalks, streetscaping and utility and sewer lines, but not for the hotel itself.

Urban Renewal board member Gary Trujillo said the project qualifies for Urban Renewal financial help because it sits within the agency's redevelopment zone.

The agency has been eager to have a second hotel located near the Pueblo Convention Center in order to attract larger conventions.

The new hotel is scheduled to be a Cambria Suites hotel, which will have a minimum of 100 rooms, as well as a national franchise restaurant located outside the hotel on the same plot of land.

Trujillo said the new hotel will have two meeting rooms, a conference room and a small kitchen to prepare breakfasts and sandwiches.

That food-service availability will be convenient for hotel guests without creating competition with the nearby convention center, Trujillo said.

"It's small enough that the manager (of the convention center) doesn't feel that it poses a problem," he said. "And it's a positive (point) to have the extra 100 to 105 sleeping rooms so we can market to big conventions, too."

The Pueblo Convention Center, which is controlled by Urban Renewal, wants to attract larger than 350-people conventions, but has been stymied by the lack of nearby hotel rooms.

The Urban Renewal agency also plans to expand the convention center, which would make the need for neighboring hotel rooms more acute.

The hotel will be built by Ashwin and Avik Amin, Pueblo developers who own two hotels in Pueblo and several others throughout Southern Colorado and New Mexico. The family most recently built the Best Western motel on the north end of Pueblo, according to Trujillo.

The agreement between the Amins and Urban Renewal calls for the developers to be repaid for what Trujillo called public improvements associated with the hotel.

The Urban Renewal money, which will be reimbursed as the improvements are made, will pay for demolition of vacant structures and site preparation, sewer and utility lines to the lot, sidewalk and street construction that goes with the hotel, and aesthetic improvements to the street and sidewalk areas.

Trujillo said the money cannot be used to build the actual hotel or restaurant.

"It's not like we're putting money into the rooms," Trujillo said.

The agreement also calls for the hotel developers to pay a minimum of $110,000 in property taxes each year. Much of that will flow to the Urban Renewal agency because of its ability to collect taxes on the increased values of newly developed properties in the agency's redevelopment zone. As part of the agreement, Urban Renewal must purchase a small triangle of railroad land near the hotel property for the developer. The parcel has not been used in some time, Trujillo said, and no longer has railroad tracks.

At their Tuesday meeting, Urban Renewal board members gave the agency's director permission to be "more aggressive" in seeking to buy or condemn the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe-owned land

Buying the land has been difficult because the railroad's property broker won't return phone calls about it, according to Mike Tedesco, the director of the Urban Renewal Authority.

Tedesco said the authority's lawyer suggested threatening to condemn the land, which would require a good deal of time and money, or asking if the railroad would agree to a voluntary condemnation.

That might work because it would give Urban Renewal clear title to the land, something the railroad itself does not have right now, he said.

Construction on the hotel is scheduled to begin in July. It's planned to be finished a year later in July 2008.

Urban Renewal trustees were pleased to see the hotel project coming along.

Board member Barbara Bernard told the Amins she's looking forward to the hotel's construction.

Trujillo said the hotel project would help fulfill the agency's vision of a redeveloped Lower Downtown.

"We need the extra rooms so we can market to better conventions," he said. "It will hopefully generate additional (tax revenue) and we'll use that money to redevelop around the Historic Arkansas Riverwalk of Pueblo.

"And we get a franchise restaurant there (in lower Downtown Pueblo)," he said.

Copyright (c) 2007, The Pueblo Chieftain, Colo. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Business News.