By Brian Bearden, TSB Contributing Writer
After years of meetings, work sessions and controversy on the floundering construction project at U.S. 75 and SRT/121, McKinney’s City Council needed only a few seconds to approve a letter of intent to jump start the Gateway Hotel and Convention Center project on Tuesday night.
Champ Hospitality and Beck Development have been given the go sign to move ahead in building the “front door” to the city. City manager Jason Gray said the two firms have been scrutinized and can put McKinney on target for a high quality hotel and convention center where the highway and tollway cross paths.
Gray told the council, “We worked through a variety of different issues” to draw up the letter of intent. Gray said the economic incentive agreement lays out a “realistic opportunity for a return on the city’s investment over and above the conference center costs.”
Council member Don Day said, “I can’t tell you how many hundreds of hours that we have spent on that project. I have been screaming and kicking for years about this one project because the numbers just did not work, and the numbers have to work for me. But, this time, this one works.”
At-Large council member David Brooks said, “Most of the yelling and screaming was at me. It has been three years since we were sworn in, and we have had a significantly difficult economy to get through. I am glad to see we got this one across the finish line.”
Mayor Pro-Tem Travis Ussery said, “I am glad to be where we are. It is not like we have crossed the finish line, but we have cleared a hurdle.”
Brooks agreed the finish is still a long way off, saying he’s happy the city has taken the first step toward a solution.
At-Large representative Roger Harris said, “It certainly is a marvelous day.”
Mayor Brian Loughmiller said under the plan the city is not capping its rate of return.
“This will come to a successful completion at some point,” Loughmiller said. “Now, we can get the cranes out there and get started on construction.”
The letter of intent with Champ Hospitality and Beck Development goes before an executive session with the McKinney Community Development Corporation on Wednesday morning.
Mayor Pro-Tem election: The council wants Travis Ussery to remain as Mayor Pro-Tem. Ussery promised the council he won’t talk a lot, but will have his say as he enters a new term as Mayor Pro-Tem.
Money Magazine: After being picked No. 5 best place to live, McKinney had another visit from the magazine. Mayor Brian Loughmiller said he told them that McKinney should be considered for No. 1 the next time.
Councilman Ray Ricchi said while many kids grow up and leave small towns, his son echoes what teenagers in McKinney say about their city.
“My son says ‘You can’t beat this place,’ and you really can’t.”
City boards: Mayor Loughmiller said residents have a hard-date of June 29 to meet on applying for the 16 city boards. He said current board members must apply to serve again.
Austin trip: Loughmiller will be in Austin on Wednesday to meet with the staff of the governor and Lt. Governor. Loughmiller said he will include the meeting on a business trip to save the city money.