CINCINNATI — A private developer may soon acquire the Millennium Hotel Downtown, a potential "game changer" for the convention center landscape, according to Hamilton County Administrator Jeff Aluotto.
"This potential opportunity for local control needs to be thoroughly and quickly explored while understanding that a new convention center hotel is an urgent priority," Aluotto said in a statement. He added the developer is under a confidentiality agreement and is working with the prosecutor's office to assess its plan.
Earlier Wednesday, the Cincinnati Center City Development Corp. announced it is pausing its search process for a convention center hotel developer as the county pursues an alternate plan.
3CDC had been leading the search for a new hotel developer after Mayor John Cranley and civic leaders, who have widely condemned the Millennium Hotel, launched a plan for a new convention center hotel in April.
In a news release, 3CDC President and CEO Steve Leeper said the county "is pursuing an acquisition of the Millennium Hotel with a local developer." Due to these developments, the organization paused on issuing requests for proposals (RFP) from developers.
"As this is a significant event that would ultimately affect our ability to issue and complete a successful RFP, we have decided to pause our activity until there is additional clarity on the project," Leeper said.
In his statement Leeper reiterated 3CDC’s commitment to address the need for a "first-class convention center hotel."
Cranley and civic leaders announced in April they would jointly seek proposals to develop an upscale hotel at the site of the 5th & Plum Parking Lot, one block south of the convention center.
Leaders have complained that the Millennium, one block east of the convention center at 5th & Elm, has cost the city millions of dollars in convention business.
"The Convention Center, and the tourism and hotel business it supports, has a significant impact on the Cincinnati region’s economy, and 3CDC believes the development of a new, upscale convention Center Hotel is essential to boost convention attendance and generate new revenue for the region," Leeper said.
Cranley previously told WCPO he had tried to persuade Millennium owners to either renovate the 872-room hotel or sell it – to no avail.
The Millennium is part of the London-based Millennium & Copthorne Hotels chain. The majority investor in the chain is Singapore-based City Developments Limited.
Millennium Hotels and Resorts issued the following statement to WCPO Wednesday:
"We can confirm that Millennium Hotels and Resorts has entered into a purchase and sale agreement with a local development company for the potential sale of our hotel in Cincinnati. The sale is contingent on certain conditions being satisfied, including the purchaser’s completion of its due diligence. In the meantime, the hotel is fully operational and will continue to serve visitors with a safe, clean and affordable stay in downtown Cincinnati."
The group that proposed a new hotel represents the city, county, Cincinnati USA Convention & Visitors Bureau, The Port and 3CDC.
To avoid sending "mixed messages" to the development and hospitality communities, 3CDC leaders will refrain from sending out the finalized RFP until the county "determines the feasibility of the legal, financial, and development plan at the Millennium site," the release said.
"If we can have a private developer come in and develop that privately without any county or city money in, that's a good option," said Hamilton County Commission President Denise Driehaus. "Whether it's torn down, renovated, we just need a top notch hotel."
The private developer has the Millennium under conditional contract, according to Aluotto. He said the county will continue working with the project's partners "to find the best solution to our collective #1 convention-related goal- a new headquarter hotel."
"This developer has done a lot of large developments. There's a confidentiality agreement around it so I cannot disclose the name of the developer," Driehaus said. "I would hope by the end of August we will have done the due diligence that the county needs to do to vet this idea. And so, because we'll want to weigh in and the city will want to weigh in on this."