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First Allen and now McKinney eyes a conference center and hotel project

Developers in McKinney have unveiled plans for a proposed hotel and conference center.

News of the project planned for McKinney's Craig Ranch comes just a week after the city of Allen announced it was moving ahead with construction on a larger hotel and conference complex on U.S. Highway 75. 

Denton's own project broke ground last year, making way for the 70,000-square-foot convention center and 11-story hotel, called the Embassy Suites by Hilton Denton Convention Center.

Kim Phillips, vice president of the Denton Convention & Visitors Bureau, said the meeting and convention industry is booming and there's room in the market for more options in North Texas. 

"Tourism is really strong in Texas right now, so it's not a surprise at all, especially in the convention realm and meeting industry," she said. "There haven't been a lot of new projects in a long time in the DFW area — it's been quiet for a long time. I think this is just evidence of a very strong industry and the full comeback of not just tourism but the meeting industry."

Other projects in the area are also under construction, including the Omni Frisco Hotel at The Star in Frisco with  a conference center that connects with the Ford Center. It's set to open later this year.

What sets the project in Denton apart from its counterparts is the destination aspect of coming to the city, Phillips said. The Denton CVB has worked to create a brand around Denton, and now that having a conference here is an option, people are attracted to the area.

So far, the Denton CVB and Embassy Suites have booked more than $1 million worth of business at the center, starting in January 2018 and spanning ahead as far as 2024, Phillips said. 

"Denton is a whole new arena, and we've got a lot of interest," she said. "We're going to be the very fresh thing and a fresh experience that's unique — people expect to come here and experience something different than anything a regular hotel convention center would offer." 

Construction of the Denton project is on track, too, and is set to be completed by this fall.

The $69 million McKinney development would contain a Marriott hotel and 33,000 square feet of meeting space. The developers are asking the city to contribute to the project.

"This project has been in the planning stages for several years and we are convinced this is the right time to bring it to market," said Dave Johnson, CEO of Aimbridge Hospitality, one of the players in the project. "However, the city's participation is the first of a series of steps that have to happen to make this viable.

"Having the city's participation is a major component and we hope McKinney's citizens will see this as a great investment."

McKinney's proposed hotel and meeting facility would be on 8 acres at Collin McKinney Parkway and Weiskopf Avenue in the 2,200-acre Craig Ranch development north of State Highway 121.

The project is to be built next to the Craig Ranch Fitness Center & Spa and the TPC Golf Course.

"It will come together as an incredible development unlike any other in the metroplex," developer Scott Tarwater told the McKinney City Council. "It's an ideal location."

The hotel would be operated as a Marriott Autograph Hotel, which has more than 100 locations and 70 more on the way.

"It is a much sought-after brand," Tarwater said. "All the major brands showed up here in McKinney to find out what they could do to fly their flag on this beautiful project."

The city is being asked to contribute $18 million in economic incentives to the project. The money would come in the form of a $3 million grant, a $5 million loan and $10 million in tax rebates over 10 years.

McKinney economic development officials say the new hotel and conference complex would pay back its incentives in a 10- to 23-year period.

"The time is right ... to get this ongoing and done," Tarwater said. "Approximately 35 to 40 percent of the revenue for this project will come from group-related and corporate activities.

"There is a large and growing market for four-star resort facilities like this."

The project in Denton is also getting city help. The package is worth up to $54 million over a maximum of 25 years — whichever threshold is hit first.

Allen's new $91 million conference center and hotel, which starts construction next week, includes a 300-room Marriott Delta Hotel and 90,000 square feet of conference space at U.S. 75 and Bethany Drive.

McKinney officials said they have taken Allen's project into account.

"We have other cities that are currently in the middle of hotel conference center development," Mayor Brian Loughmiller said.

JENNA DUNCAN can be reached at 940-566-6889.

Featured image: Construction of the Embassy Suites by Hilton Denton Convention Center continues Wednesday near Interstate 35 just south of West University Drive. It is expected to be completed this fall.
DRC/Jeff Woo