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7/6/2018 11:34:00 AM
$22 million hotel, connevention center slated for downtown Kokomo

George Myers, Kokomo Tribune

A “major hotel and conference center announcement” will be held next week, city officials signaled Thursday, bringing an end to months of speculation about the large-scale project likely slated for downtown Kokomo.

Preliminary plans for a downtown hotel and conference center project in the block between Main and Union streets just north of Wildcat Creek have circulated publicly since July 2017, and the future development has been called the city’s “worst kept secret” by Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight.

Still, nothing is official. That will soon change.

The announcement will be held at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 10, at City Hall, according to a media advisory distributed to news outlets. In attendance at the event will be Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight, Greater Kokomo Economic Development Alliance President and CEO Charlie Sparks, Howard County Commissioner Paul Wyman and “developers and invited guests.”

City officials declined Thursday to reveal specifics about the project, instead deferring to the scheduled press conference.

And while the advisory doesn’t mention a location for the project, efforts are underway to vacate the block that currently houses the downtown CityLine trolley stop and Kokomo Howard County Governmental Coordinating Council offices between Main and Union streets.

Both will be moved to 219 E. Sycamore St., next to City Hall.

Already relocated from the same block – the location was first targeted in 2014 by a Carmel- based consultant as a potential site for a hotel and conference center – is the Indiana Department of Revenue’s Kokomo district office, now at 124 W. Superior St.

The building that housed the DOR office but still contains the KHCGCC and a trolley stop waiting area will eventually be torn down, Goodnight previously acknowledged.

Also lending credence to the hotel and conference center’s assumed location is a July 2017 presentation by Sparks that show, in preliminary plans revealed in PowerPoint form, a hotel on the east side of the property, along Union Street, with a main public entrance to the north on on Superior Street.

The plans show the conference center to the west, along Main and Superior streets.

One slide also notes the inclusion of an “American Grill” restaurant in the hotel. That is notable because Hilton Garden Inn hotels often contain a restaurant called The Great American Bar & Grill.

One example is the Hilton Garden Inn in Carmel, which has a restaurant with that name “serving a variety of fresh breakfast options and a delicious a la carte dinner menu,” according to the hotel’s website.

Part of the presentation – called “a conceptual design of what we’re pursuing” by Sparks – explained that 125 guestrooms are proposed within the hotel. The conference center, according to a PowerPoint slide, would encompass 12,000 square feet.

Also expected to be included in a downtown hotel and conference center is the Kokomo Automotive Museum. Wyman acknowledged in an interview during last fall’s Howard County budget sessions that the museum was a part of project plans.

“It’s a $22 million project, and $14 million of it is coming from the private developer,” Wyman explained. “The remainder is coming from the [Convention and Visitors Bureau], the city, the county and then the automotive museum guys will be putting a little bit in with a capital campaign.”

Wyman confirmed in May, in the lead-up to the museum vacating its longtime home in the Kokomo Event and Conference Center, that he still expects the automotive museum to be included in the downtown project.

But how long could construction take on such an extensive project?

In March, Goodnight said in an interview with Indiana Public Media that the development should take roughly one year to complete.

And the presence of a downtown hotel and conference center project, say local officials, could bring various events and conventions to Kokomo – moneymaking opportunities, in other words, that didn’t previously consider the city.

In his State of the County speech last year, Wyman said Kokomo has lost out on a number of 300- to 500-person conventions due to the lack of a conference center, sometimes referred to as convention center, attached to a hotel.

Convenience is what people want, noted Wyman, and the development of a conference center/hotel combination could entice organizers to bring conferences, conventions and other events to downtown Kokomo. It would also further augment an area that includes Kokomo Municipal Stadium and the luxury apartment complex 306 Riverfront District. “ This is our chance to take the next step, the next big piece of the puzzle to continue to make Kokomo and Howard County not only great but greater than we already are,” said Wyman. “This is something real that we could see here in our community, and a community our size not only needs one but we deserve one when you look at our location and the types of events we could attract here centrally located in Indiana.”

Related Stories:
• Hilton Garden Inn, conference center coming to downtown Kokomo

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