Acting on a suggestion from the Chamber, a group of investors proposing to develop a Hilton Garden Inn in Hutchinson met last week with Kansas State Fair officials to explore locating the hotel on state property near the fairgrounds.
Developer Aaron Brooks confirmed he met Thursday with Kansas State Fair Manager Bryan Schulz to explore the grounds and discuss the possibilities. But he provided no decision timeline.
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Three hotel developers interested in Hutchinson
Hutchinson /Reno County Chamber of Commerce President Debra Teufel said that Brooks’ group is one of three developers looking at Hutchinson to construct a new hotel.
Though one of those three has indicated Hutchinson was probably not a fit for their type of development, Teufel said, the other two could both decide to build here, with an announcement from one anticipated in the next month or two.
Brooks had previously told The News his investment group was looking at a couple of properties in the K-61/17th Avenue corridor, with a minimum of six acres required.
However, part of the plan is to develop a separate but adjoining entertainment district with an outdoor amphitheater, restaurant, and other amenities.
That idea, revealed in an application to the county for a share of ARPA dollars, prompted Teufel to suggest he talk to the fair.
“After assessing the three hotel developers we’d been talking to, we felt like one of them had a good fit with wanting to partner with an entertainment provider such as the fair, so we made that introduction,” Teufel said.
“It’s probably very early to tell if there is an alignment there, but it’s definitely worth both of them exploring,” she said.
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Limited location options at the Kansas State Fairgrounds
Schulz said they toured the fair grounds and discussed what large open areas might be available.
Previous Fair Manager Robin Jennison proposed locating a hotel on the southwest corner of the grounds, where a fire station scheduled for demolition, after a new one is built, now sits.
However, Schulz said that land is needed to relocate vendors displaced by the new fire station that is under construction since its footprint is so large.
“I’m not saying we’d never go there, but there are higher recommended spots,” he said. “In our conversation, they said they needed upwards of four acres, and there is not enough room there for a four-acre piece. That would not be their first choice.”
One place they did throw out, Schulz said, is part of the large grass lot on the east side of Plum Street used for free public parking.
“It all depends on how many acres they actually need,” he said.
But another large grassy expanse north of State Fair Road is a major parking area that’s full at fair time, so they wouldn’t want to commit that land, Schulz said
“Again, it comes down to how many acres they need, what kind of amenities they need, what it will take to bring in,” he said. “Their power sources are pretty significant. There’s also water and sewer and all that. They’re making sure it would be able to work.”
Schulz said they’ll likely meet again, but no date was set.
“Their response was ‘We’ll do our due diligence and reach back out,’” he said. “It was a quick meeting. Basically, they’re amenable to sitting down and discussing more things.”
For their part, the fair will have to investigate conditions for selling or leasing the land since it is state-owned. There are no plans, he said, to give the land away.
The Fairgrounds property “is one of the options on the table,” Brooks said Friday. “It’s not been ruled out.”
“(The meeting) had a lot of input I’d consider to be positive or good for our vision,” he said.
Brooks previously told The News that the investors are awaiting completion of a market study to determine how many rooms the facility will have, but that the property will be a Hilton Garden Inn franchise, which requires a minimum of 82 rooms.
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Another hotel development in the works
Of the other developers she’s spoken to, Teufel said one is a Wichita-based group “more focused on an extended stay hotel product, which is typically building in a larger market.”
“They started engaging with us because of a business relationship in Hutchinson, which opened the door to look at Hutch,” she said. “But because they build mostly all-suite hotels, they’re not as interested in building one with a convention aspect to it. We feel that’s an important element. I can’t say it won’t ever happen, but it’s not ranked as high for them as a priority.”
The other group is looking at a more traditional 100-room hotel with a restaurant and conference or convention center.
“They are also looking at about a six-acre development, which is a traditional footprint for that size of a hotel,” Teufel said.
That group has run economic models and is currently negotiating the purchase of land in the vicinity of Hutchinson Regional Medical Center, she said.
“They want to ensure they have the land under contract before making the next step,” she said. “I expect they will move forward in the next four to six weeks. In fact, it could be quicker than that. They need to make an offer on the land and make sure it’s secure, but it may move very quickly after that point.”
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“Both could succeed”
Both developers will likely ask the city to create Community Improvement Districts, which allow a portion of taxes collected within the district to be retained and applied toward development debt, Teufel said.
They may also seek “a mix of some other kind of incentives,” she said, though nothing specific has been discussed.
Teufel said she believes both developments could occur “and be complementary to each other.”
“From the number of hotel rooms they’re both talking about, it would backfill a void in the market of 200 rooms,” she said. “I see them complementing each other and both being very successful.”
“I feel both have a high probability of success,” Teufel said. “There is definitely a need. We’ve seen that void of over 200 rooms since we lost the Atrium.”