Gaylord in Aurora: New developer found to build 1,500-room, $800 million hotel

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A new developer will take over the stalled Gaylord hotel project in Aurora, which won an estimated $81.4 million tax rebate from the state last year before hospitality giant Gaylord Entertainment announced it was restructuring -- and that building the 1,500-room hotel and conference center here wasn't in its plans.

But will the City of Aurora, which won the sought-after sales-tax rebate for the project, have to reapply to the Colorado Economic Development Commission for the money? No, say state and city officials.

"As long as the project remains the same in size and scope and economic benefit to the state, it's been approved," says Bryan Blakely, the vice president of the Aurora Economic Development Council. Kathy Green, spokeswoman for the state Office of Economic Development and International Trade, confirmed that's true. Projects chosen to receive sales-tax rebates under the state Regional Tourism Act have five years from the time they're approved to start, she adds.

RIDA Development Corporation, a real estate development group headquartered in Houston, plans to partner with AREA Property Partners to finance and build the hotel and conference center, Blakely says. Marriott will operate the property under the Gaylord brand. Per the terms of the deal brokered last year, Marriott already operates Gaylord's four other hotels in Nashville, Orlando, Dallas and outside Washington, D.C.

"We've never given up on the project, but we wanted to make sure it was done right and remained the same size and scope as we initially planned, which was why it was important to find well-respected partners with a long track record of success that are capable of putting together a project of this scope, and we have done so," Blakely says.

"But we still have a long way to go."

Blakely says the partners will work over the next three-to-five months to pull together the financing for the project, which is expected to cost $800 million. If they're successful, he says construction could begin in late 2014, with a target opening date of late 2017.

Last May, the Colorado Economic Development Commission approved the hotel project to receive a rebate of 65.8 percent of the new sales taxes it generates, a sum that's estimated to be $2.7 million per year or $81.4 million over thirty years. In addition, Aurora has pledged to provide up to $300 million more in incentives.

The Gaylord project and one other -- an expansion of Pueblo's riverwalk and convention center, as well as the construction of a Professional Bull Riding University -- were chosen out of six contenders. Pueblo was approved to receive a 24.7 percent rebate, which is estimated to be $493,000 annually, or $14.8 million over thirty years.

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