Hamilton County Makes Payment To Keep Millennium Hotel Purchase Alive
Hamilton County Commissioners voted two-one Thursday to use $1.3 million of residual money from the county's transit occupancy tax, or hotel/motel tax, as an earnest money deposit to keep a purchase contract alive for the Millennium Hotel in Downtown Cincinnati from its Singapore-based ownership group.
Commissioners Denise Driehaus and Todd Portune voted yes, while Stephanie Summerow Dumas voted no.
County and Cincinnati officials and even private developers have been trying for years to get the Millennium owners to upgrade the hotel or sell it. Mayor John Cranley even publicly discouraged people from staying there.
Commissioner Portune said this may be the best opportunity to get control of the Millennium site.
"I think the reality is that this is our only opportunity," Portune said. "And it's a great opportunity for the city, for the county, for the convention and visitors industry."
But Commissioner Summerow Dumas disagreed. She called it the "worst deal since I've been here."
"I believe the fact that they did not allow us to do our due diligence tells me that we need to wait for a better opportunity," Summerow Dumas said. "And that I've said before, on Tuesday, this will be in my belief: $2.6 million going to a black hole going nowhere."
An additional $1.3 million payment would be due prior to a closing on the property, which would happen in late January or early February.
The parties involved had sought an extension of the earnest money deadline of Friday, but the seller declined after already doing two previous extensions.
Oakley-based Vandercar, LLC announced a purchase and sale agreement earlier this year for the hotel, which is located next to and designed to serve the Duke Energy Convention Center.
Vandercar has the option of assigning its contract to a public entity and negotiations are underway for the The Port to take that assignment. The county's funding is contingent on Vandercar and The Port reaching an agreement.
If the purchase moves forward, The Port and Vandercar would then work together to redevelop the Millennium site into a new convention center hotel, and that plan could also include an expansion of the convention center across Elm Street.
The Port, the county and the city are still working on "due diligence" to make sure the developer's proposal, and financing for it, will work. That work could not be completed by Friday. With the deposit covered, the parties now have until early next year to make a final decision.
But if the plan does not work, or the purchase falls apart, the county will not get its $1.3 million back.
Even if the proposed hotel development was found not to be feasible, The Port and the county could continue with the Millennium purchase so it would own the site and be able to control future development on the site.