Arkansas Online

PB convention center’s hotel plans taking shape


Pine Bluff Convention Center and Hotel Public Facilities Board members met Thursday for the first time since Aug. 1, but they’re expecting to start a trend of weekly meetings to remain up to speed on the progress of a Courtyard by Marriott coming to the downtown facility.

The $24 million project to create a 125-bed brand-name hotel includes a 32-year, $18 million U.S. Department of Agriculture-backed loan through Farmers State Bank of Harrisburg, Ill. The board is expecting to close by March 31. Development company The P3 Group, which has a hand in a number of projects across Pine Bluff, and management group Beechwood Pinnacle Hotels will combine to make a $1.9 million loan as subordinated debt, and $2.9 million in revenue from the 2017 Go Forward Pine Bluff sales tax will be used. The city has already contributed the land valued at $1.2 million to the board.

“Because we are very close to closing, we have a lot more details and transactions we need to have take place,” board Chairwoman Letrece Harris said. “We felt that meeting on a weekly basis is important so we are all very comfortable with the transactions, paying the contractors and other fees involved in the project.”

Board members meet weekly in the old City Council chambers with The P3 Group and are knowledgeable about what is happening day-to-day, Harris said. The next meeting is scheduled for 1 p.m. Monday.

“We’re ready for the wrecking ball to the Plaza Hotel and to get ready to construct the Marriott. We’re very excited we’re at this point,” she said.

One major development Thursday was that the board tabled approval of Parekh Architects, which offered architectural, structural, mechanical, electrical and plumbing services for $200,000.

“The developers didn’t fully feel like they could take it on,” Harris said, adding The P3 Group has a good relationship with CHASM Architecture of Atlanta. It is possible the board will hire CHASM as the architects in the coming weeks.

Board member Rosalind Mouser, who was just appointed secretary-treasurer Thursday, said city leaders are more than confident the hotel will prove profitable. Convention Center Executive Director Joseph McCorvey said when he announced Marriott’s offer in late 2022 that having a new hotel next door would bring more attractions to the entertainment venue.

“The USDA wasn’t going to provide an 80 percent guarantee unless they studied the projections and the numbers,” McCorvey said. “You’ve got Marriott. You’ve got USDA. You’ve got P3, and you’ve got Beechwood. All of us have skin in the game. We as a public facilities board, we don’t build hotels, right? … They build things. If they feel it can be productive at that location, we’re willing to fight hard, hard, for it to end up profitable.”

Despite the city’s contribution, legal counsel Gordon Wilbourn of Kutak Rock LLP emphasized Pine Bluff will have no liability for the hotel.

“There’s been a feasibility study. They run cash flows,” Wilbourn said. “I get confidence from Marriott’s confidence. I don’t do a lot of hotel projects, but that’s all they do.”

A public hearing on the project is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Feb. 20 at the new City Council Chambers under the Det. Kevin D. Collins Center.

The Pine Bluff Commercial