Houston on track to expand Convention Center District


The city says replacing some of the many parking lots around Discovery Green with a hotel is a much more effective use of land, but some are wondering about the price tag involved.

Soon, new Marriott Marquis will rise in downtown Houston. It will be a thousand-room convention hotel erected to complement the existing Hilton, and adding much-needed hotel rooms to the Convention Center District.

"I think it will allow them to have more guest rooms and so they can bring larger conventions and have more conventions in Houston," downtown worker Jackie Casper said.

To get the project going, Houston City Council approved Wednesday morning an economic incentive package that totaled more than $100 million.

Mayor Annise Parker says it was a good deal.

"We came to the conclusion that in order to get a specific project to the caliber and quality that we wanted we would have to participate," Parker said.

The new Marriott will feature a Texas-shaped lazy river. It will be built on the roof of the hotel's ballroom.

Houston-based developer Ira Mitzner says his firm, Rida Development, is excited to produce this hometown project, and that it will make the George R. Brown Convention Center more competitive.

"What we see is the opportunity to get folks to say yes, Houston now has a premier convention district, instead of going to our competition, to San Antonio or Atlanta," Mitzner said.

But not every Houstonian is convinced an incentive package was needed to get a hotel built.

"They need tax incentives to do that? They can't just build it without tax incentives? They're still going to create jobs and make more money. What's the tax incentive do?" downtown worker Mike Norton said.

City leaders say more conventions will be bring in a lot more money and jobs to the area.

Groundbreaking on the project is expected to begin in 2014, and the hotel is expected to open in 2016.

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