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Hyatt Regency construction starts after nearly three decades of debate, false starts and controversies

METRO/MORTENSON - Construction is finally underway on the long-delayed headquarters Hotel at the Oregon Convention Center.Waves of people working on the Oregon Convention Center hotel project threw shovel loads of dirt in the air at the groundbreaking ceremony on Friday.

The included members of the city, county, regional and governments that have studied and pushed for the project for nearly three decades, along with representatives of the businesses that are now going to build it.

"Who'da thought?" Metro President Tom Hughes asked, drawing laughs from the crowd at the construction site at Northeast MLK Jr. Blvd. and Holladay Street. "This is a very special day for the city of Portland and the Portland region in general.

Metro owns and operates the center, which the hotel is designed to support. It will be a 600-room Hyatt Regency with extra meeting rooms and additional banquet space intended to supplement future conventions at the center. The hotel will be built by Mortenson Development on property owned by partner Schlesinger Corporation.

"It's been a long time coming and real community effort to make it happen," said Tom Lander, vice president of Mortenson Development.

The idea of building a large hotel with special features for convention-goers next to the center had been discussed before it even opened in 1990. The City Council approved the Oregon Convention Center Urban Renewal Plan for the area the previous year with the construction of a so-called Headquarters Hotel adjacent to the MAX station on Northeast MLK Jr. Boulevard as its top priority.

But it would be another 15 years before a specific plan for a 600-room hotel with additional banquet and meeting space was finally approved by Metro, the elected regional government that owns and operates the center. And then construction was delayed another 12 years by the Great Recession, that caused the project to be temporarily shelved, and legal challenges by other hotel owners in the town. They were finally settled in 2016, clearing the way for the final version of the project approved in 2012 to begin.

The hotel is being built as a private-public partnership between Metro, Portland, Multnomah County, Mortenson Development and Hyatt Hotels. The cost is $240 million, with 70 percent coming from the private sector and 30 percent from the public sector. Lander says the private sector will pay $166 million for land acquisition, construction, development and permitting fees, contingency costs and interest. Public financing includes a $60 million Metro bond, $10 million on Oregon Lottery bond funds, and $4 million in center reserves.

The hotel will include a ground floor marketplace feature local food, produce, beer and wine that will be open to the public. Prosper Portland, the former Portland Development Commission, will build a parking garage adjacent to the hotel that will house a new Transit Police Division Central Precinct.

The project is expected to take 28 months to complete and will open at the end of 2019.

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