Columbus officials are all excited about the expansion of the Hilton Columbus Downtown into the city's first 1,000-room convention hotel.
The Columbus City Council and Franklin County Board of Commissioners intend to consider legislation that will make both entities provide financial backing of bonds issued by the county's Convention Facilities Authority. The conceptual project cost is $165 million.
"The Hilton is gonna double the number of employees that they have here locally," said Mayor Andrew Ginther at a press conference on Monday. "More opportunities for people that live in Columbus to get jobs and enter careers in hospitality and tourism, which is exciting."
A new Hilton Tower will sitadjacent to the Greater Columbus Convention Center on the east side of High Street. It will have 470 rooms and 22 floors, bringing the Hilton Columbus Downtown to a total of 1,002 rooms, and will be connected to the existing hotel by the Michael B. Coleman Skybridge.
Experience Columbus president and CEO Brian Ross says the Hilton expansion will help the city attract conventions that occupy 1,200 to 3,000 rooms on their peak nights.
"We know that just in the cities we’re competing with, there’s 900,000 rooms out there. So just a small movement of those room nights will more than pay for what the investment is," Ross says.
Columbus ranks ninth in the number of hotel rooms among an 11-city competitive group, which also includes Cleveland, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Louisville, Charlotte, St. Louis, Nashville, Indianapolis, Milwaukee and Kansas City.
The next step is to select a design team, construction manager and underwriting team to further outline details fo the expansion. Experience Columbus and the Greater Columbus Sports Commission is already beginning to market the hotel for larger events in 2022 and later.
"By expanding from 500 rooms to 1,000 rooms and adding additional needed ballroom space for their big meetings and conferences, we have the ability to keep them in the family if you will and make sure they go from one of our other big Hilton cities to Columbus," says Hilton senior vice president David Marr.
Ginther also said that Columbus State Community College, Cameron Mitchell restaurants and Ross will collaborate on a new hospitality and tourism career pathway. The program would allow people to earn a certificate or credential, and even earn a two- or four-year degree, while working in the hospitality industry.
The hotel expansion could break ground as early as fall 2018. The tower is expected to open in late 2021.
The Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority will build the Ohio Center Garage to accompany the hotel expansion. The garage will accommodate 650 vehicles and is expected to open in 2020.