Hillsboro Mayor Drew Hastings told The Times-Gazette on Monday that a positive vote from the Hillsboro City Schools Board of Education is one of the final hurdles into whether a developer will bring a modern Marriott hotel complex to the city.
The four-story hotel would be the anchor to what the mayor described as a “four building, mixed-use community incorporating new retail, restaurants and possibly office space with a Marriott brand hotel.”
According to a description provided by Morlii Development, LLC, the project would consist of construction of an 83-room/62,000 square foot hotel, described as Building A, with Buildings B and C, both estimated at 5,000 square feet, intended for a pair of chain restaurants with the one occupying Building C and featuring a drive-thru, and Building D being a 20,000 square foot structure tentatively proposed to be a bank.
The multi-million dollar development would be situated on currently vacant land approaching the intersection of North West Street, SR 73 and Harry Sauner Road.
Hastings said the owner of the property and the developer, who is currently working on a similar development in Murfreesboro, Tenn., approached the city in early 2018 requesting what Hastings termed “common incentives” that are offered by cities.
“What the developer is looking for is help with infrastructure development via what is referred to as a ‘TIF,’ which is tax increment financing,” Hastings said. “This is very commonly done, in fact, the city of Hillsboro has done it numerous times since I’ve been in office.”
He described TIF financing as a package a city would put together to help with the infrastructure on a project such as construction of curbs, gutters, sewer, water runoffs, retention ponds, lighting and anything else “that has to do with the surface or subsurface of the project.”
Most recently, Hastings said, a TIF package was completed with the new dental office facility at the intersection of SR 73 and Pea Ridge Road. He said most every business on or near Harry Sauner Road, extending from Lowe’s to Days Inn, incorporated TIF financing.
Approval from the Hillsboro City School Board of Education is required, Hastings said, in TIF projects that extend beyond 10 years, due to the fact the board will have to give up some future funds that are devoted to the TIF project.
“Part of the thinking on this is right now, the school board is getting nothing from this property because it’s just sitting there,” Hastings said. “But with a TIF in place, the school would be getting a small percentage on something very big, which will benefit not only the schools, but also the city and the county.”
Hastings said the economic ramifications are huge, with the property value upon completion estimated to be at $23 million, and sales tax revenues alone expected to top out at almost $1 million annually.
“The lodging tax, which is a different animal altogether from sales tax, they’re estimating for Hillsboro and Highland County, would be a little over $2 million a year,” he said. “You have no idea what this city and this county could do with that kind of money.”
To those that would pose the argument that building the hotel complex would result in more traffic congestion and increased roadway wear, Hastings said that’s the reason financial instruments like lodging taxes exist.
“It would allow us to widen the roads if need be, build a turn lane or install a traffic light,” he said. “We could then do these things because of increased business and an increase in revenue.”
In looking to the future, Hastings said the hotel complex would allow the city and county to attract mini and regional conferences and events, in addition to allowing corporate executives and sales personnel who come to the various businesses in Hillsboro to stay in Hillsboro. He said that currently, visitors to Hillsboro may have to reserve accommodations in Wilmington, Washington C.H. or the Eastgate area.
Hastings said he is hopeful that everything will eventually come to pass on the hotel proposal, saying that residents he’s spoken to have wanted a modern hotel for Hillsboro for several years, and he feels, “this is our chance to do it.”
“Everyone is prepared to move forward as soon as we have these things in place,” Hastings said. “The only thing that is out of the city’s control is the TIF approval by the school board, and we’re hoping that they will see the tremendous benefit of building this new hotel here and what it can bring to them, the county and the city.”
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.