Modesto mayor hits pause button on city spending $380K for downtown hotel plan

The site for the proposed high-end hotel on 11th street between K and L streets in downtown Modesto, Calif. is pictured from the Bee’s drone on Wednesday April 17, 2019.
The site for the proposed high-end hotel on 11th street between K and L streets in downtown Modesto, Calif. is pictured from the Bee’s drone on Wednesday April 17, 2019. jlee@modbee.com

Mayor Ted Brandvold has pulled the plug on Modesto’s plan to spend about $380,000 to explore the development of a high-end hotel in downtown.

The mayor’s Friday decision came the day after he and two other city officials met with The Modesto Bee’s editorial board to explain and defend the proposal before Tuesday’s City Council meeting in which council members were expected to vote on approving the spending.

City spokesman Thomas Reeves said in a Friday email that Brandvold “has pulled the hotel item from Tuesday’s council meeting, and it will not be heard in the near future.

“The mayor and staff had a previously scheduled meeting this morning with an expert in hotel development, and at that meeting the mayor was given additional perspectives about how to proceed with the potential development. Therefore, the mayor and staff have asked for time to review the entire hotel approach further.”

The city is considering the development of a hotel in Modesto Centre Plaza’s 1.5-acre parking lot. The hotel would complement the 258-room DoubleTree by Hilton, which is connected to the Centre Plaza.

The city commissioned a $59,300 consultant’s study that concluded a 200-room, high-end hotel is feasible if several conditions can be met, including renovating Centre Plaza, (which the city estimates will cost $3.2 million) and developing parking for the hotel.

The consultant’s study says renovating Centre Plaza, which has been downtown’s convention center for about 30 years, is necessary to draw more conventions and visitors and increase the demand for rooms at the DoubleTree and new hotel.

Modesto has had several public meetings on the proposed hotel since April, including Oct. 22 when the City Council voted 3-1 to approve the roughly $380,000 in spending. But the matter did not pass because it required four “yes” votes. The proposal was rescheduled for Tuesday’s meeting when all seven council members are expected.

Brandvold was one of the council members who voted for the $380,000. The spending would cover such costs as $60,000 for an engineer to determine whether the city’s three downtown parking garages can be expanded, $170,000 for legal work and $116,700 for a consultant that would help the city select a developer and negotiate an agreement.

City officials say the agreement could cover such details as how to pay for the Centre Plaza renovation and the additional parking.

Reeves, the city spokesman, said the hotel development expert the mayor and city staff met with Friday suggested there are less expansive parking options. “The issue with the parking certainly caused us to take a step back and make sure the entire budget was appropriate,” Reeves said in a text message.

Reeves said the mayor is not willing at this time to release the names of the hotel development expert or the developer he, Councilman Tony Madrigal and city staff met with a couple of years ago regarding the proposed hotel. But at Thursday’s editorial board meeting Brandvold said “we could get it for you” when asked to provide the developer’s name.

Brandvold did not respond to three requests for comment Friday and Saturday regarding the hotel project.

Proponents say the hotel would help bring in more conventions and visitors and help revitalize downtown, which in recent years has started to undergo a rebirth.

But critics say if another high-end hotel in downtown were needed developers would be lining up at City Hall, and Modesto would not have to spend taxpayers’ money. City officials say there is developer interest but have not quantified it. They also say this is the process that cities use to let developers know about opportunities.

Kevin Valine covers local government, homelessness and general assignment for The Modesto Bee. He is a graduate of San Jose State University and grew up in San Jose.