Raleigh considers new convention center hotel to bring more visitors, revenue to downtown businesses :: WRAL.com

— There’s something missing in downtown Raleigh and its costing the city millions of dollars.

Raleigh barely has half the number of hotel rooms downtown as other cities our size. As a result, we’re losing out on dozens of conventions – and the revenue that comes with them.

Now, the city is reviving a plan that was abandoned at the start of the pandemic – calling for developers to build a convention hotel with 500 rooms.

The original plan goes back to a 2018 Destination Strategic Plan that recommended building a large hotel on the parking lot right across from the Raleigh Convention Center.

On Tuesday, city council heard an update from JLL, the real estate company that did the original plan prior to the pandemic.

“Raleigh was a central location for us,” said Noelle Woods, president of the North Carolina Association of Governmental Purchasers. “What better place than the state capital to bring together the people who seek out the best deals to spend taxpayer dollars.”

Woods helped put together the four-day conference for 140 local government workers at the Raleigh Convention Center.

“We like to have hotels close to the convention center so it’s walking distance and they don’t have to leave,” she said.

How does downtown Raleigh’s hotel accommodations compare with other cities?

Right now, 929 hotel rooms are within a short walk of the Raleigh Convention Center.

Compare that Pittsburgh’s 1,200 rooms, or nearly 2,000 in Baltimore.

Nashville and Austin both have more than 4,000 rooms close to their convention centers.

The Destination Strategic Plan reveals the Raleigh Convention Center lost 68 events between 2018 and 2020. Around 45% of those groups blamed a shortage of hotel rooms. Those add up to more than $102 million in missed spending in Raleigh’s restaurants, shops, and hotels.

“What we don’t know is the number of opportunities if we had this additional hotel, the number of opportunities that would be at our doorstep if we had additional hotel rooms,” said Dennis Edwards, Greater Raleigh Convention & Visitors Bureau President.

“It’s embarrassing, because how many open surface parking lots surround that convention center. There’s a ton on all sides including the two we own,” said Jonathan Melton, one of Raleigh’s city councilors.

Woods says a convention hotel would make Raleigh more attractive as a destination for doing business.

“I think it would be a great asset for us planning a conference. We definitely would come back,” said Woods.

City council is pushing to move forward quickly with finding a developer for this project.

At the same time, they’ll also do a study of expanding the convention center to host bigger events.

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