School board seeks details

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Stafford: Members want skinny on convention center’s financial impact

The Denton school board did not immediately endorse plans for a new convention center at a special joint meeting Monday with the City Council, with some board members saying they need more information before deciding whether to contribute tax dollars to help repay the construction costs.

City officials gave school board members an update on the proposed hotel and convention center at the joint meeting Monday. Representatives of the University of North Texas and the Denton Chamber of Commerce also attended the meeting.

School Board President Charles Stafford said the board wants to learn more about the project’s financial details and what impact it might have on local taxpayers.

“So far the city hasn’t really shared any of the details with us so the board pretty much doesn’t have an opinion about something we don’t know about yet,” he said. “I’m hopeful that it’s a good business deal. I’m hopeful that it’s something that can be accomplished for the community, but at this point I can’t say if I’m for it or against it because I don’t know about it yet.”

The city is looking to partner with UNT, Missouri-based O’Reilly Hospitality Management and O’Reilly Hotel Partners Denton to construct a full-service, 318-room hotel and 100,000-square-foot convention center on 13.5 acres of UNT property near Apogee Stadium.

According to the presentation, O’Reilly Hotel Partners Denton would fund the hotel and restaurant at a projected cost of $60 million, and the city would fund the convention center at an estimated cost of $25 million.

The city intends to sell certificates of obligation to fund the convention center and begin repaying bonds the year the convention center opens. One of the financing options would be to create a tax-increment financing district, in which the school district and Denton County could be asked to contribute some property tax money to help in repaying the bonds, city officials have said.

“That’s part of the reason for the presentation ... to try to educate the community, educate the stakeholders in the community about the project and the opportunity,” Assistant City Manager Jon Fortune said Monday.

He said it is key to the project’s success that the county and school district participate.

“The agreement contemplates that if there isn’t, then the developer would have an opportunity to decide if he wants to move forward with building the hotel,” he said.

Discussions on the tax-increment finance district will continue through next spring. The discussions would need to be completed by summer, Fortune said.

The UNT Board of Regents is expected to vote on its portion of the developer’s agreement Thursday. The Denton City Council is expected to consider the agreement Dec. 10, Fortune said. A similar presentation will be made to Denton County officials but has not yet been scheduled, he said.

If all parties sign off on the agreement, the parties will enter a “feasibility period” before construction begins on the hotel, restaurant and convention center. Each party will have at least two opportunities to halt the deal during the “feasibility period,” city officials have said.

BRITNEY TABOR can be reached at 940-566-6876 and via Twitter at @BritneyTabor.


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