Westin Hotel plans not forgotten by Mayor Bell

By Ashley Nix

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Plans for a new Westin Hotel in downtown Birmingham near the BJCC are still on the table, after original plans were not very popular among city councilors.  The new plans for the 4-star Westin and marketplace were partly drawn up by Mayor William Bell, a big advocate for the project.  Bell, when talking about the $70 million facility says he hopes to meet soon again with councilors.  "I'm anticipating being back at the table within the 15-30 days."

The first pitch to city councilors to extend the city's lodging tax to pay for part of the project was not met with open arms, partly because councilors felt they did not have enough input. In the last few weeks, things have changed, according to councilor Steven Hoyt.  

"That has been addressed," Hoyt said Tuesday.  "I would say the consensus is we do intend to do this hotel.  I want to thank Mr. Schwartz for his patience."

Developer Bob Schwartz of Atlanta's National Ventures Group says Birmingham never approached him about the project, rather it was the complete opposite.  "I want to make it clear it was our initial phone call to the BJCC that started all this," Schwartz said.  The hotel developer also says with the private sector providing a large amount of equity, then the sale of bonds, timing for the project could not be better.  He also says Louisville, Kentucky is stealing conventions away from Birmingham for one major reason, a lack of hotel rooms.   He and his development partners say they have no doubt the project will be a complete success.  "Were business men and were here for profit," Schwartz said.  "And we think it would be great for profit."

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