Washington could likely support a new hotel and a convention center.
That’s the findings from a Peckham, Guyton, Albers and Viets Inc. Planners (PGAV) feasibility study examining the need for a convention center and lodging.
Jenny Ryan, project manager with PGAV, reported her findings to the city council at Monday’s administration/operations committee meeting.
Ryan said after gathering data and looking at the market, she felt the city could support a 100-room hotel and a convention center that could host about 300 people.
Last year, the city and Washington Tourism Committee agreed on the cost of the $12,000 study to be conducted by PGAV. At the time, City Planner Sal Maniaci said a discussion about the need for more lodging and meeting space was prompted by a 2016 Missouri Main Street Downtown Revitalization Conference hosted by Downtown Washington Inc.
Ryan said the city’s lone conference center adjacent to a hotel is the Expo Center at the Best Western. It can host up to 120 people.
Ryan said for conventions, 120 people isn’t enough space. She said the city does have places like Jesuit Hall, the KC Hall and the lower level of the Washington Area Chamber of Commerce building that can host meetings, but they aren’t all connected and don’t have attached lodging.
With tourism here and other attractions in the area, Ryan said the study shows it would be feasible to have a convention center capable of hosting 300 people. Ideally, the convention center also would have smaller rooms for breakout sessions, she said.
The convention center could be attached to a new hotel, but Ryan said the city really only could support 100 rooms. That means, if the center was built along with a new hotel, some guests would still have to stay off site and travel to the convention center.
A new hotel would lower occupancy levels in the town, Ryan said. A healthy occupancy level is about 65 percent. She said adding 100 rooms would lower Washington’s to about 57 percent.
Councilman Josh Brinker questioned if a hotel chain would come to Washington knowing the occupancy level would be that low. Ryan said the number could scare off a major chain, but a smaller developer with experience might be able to make it work.
Ryan said the developer would have to be aware of the risks.
Maniaci said PGAV was limited in the scope of the project. He said the city had the opportunity for a deeper, more expensive study, but opted for something smaller.
He said the study will allow the city to have a market analysis ready if needed.
“The goal was to have this study for when a company contacts us,” he said. “We can say we’ve done the homework for you.”
Ryan presented an overview of the study at Monday’s meeting. The full study will be sent to the council for further review, Maniaci said.