CU Boulder on Thursday announced the selection of HRV Hotel Partners to lead the development of an on-campus hotel and conference center that will be a game-changer for both the university and the community in terms of the types of high-profile events the facility will be able to attract.
The announcement followed a University of Colorado Board of Regents vote on Thursday that authorized CU Boulder to enter into a ground lease with the development team for 2.95 acres straddling Grandview Avenue in the northwest corner of Main Campus.
The new facility, which will be the first of its size in Boulder County, will create a venue for large and prominent academic, research and other conferences and events. It will also diversify revenue sources for the university to help meet its mission of education and research while helping to contain the cost of a degree for students and their families.
“I couldn’t be more excited for this long-awaited project to begin coming to fruition,” said CU Boulder Chancellor Philip DiStefano. “The hotel and conference center will provide a new stage for showcasing CU Boulder’s leadership, innovation and impact.”
Santa Fe, New Mexico-based HRV will oversee the design, financing and operation of the hotel and conference center. Preliminary HRV estimates put construction costs at $130 million. The partnership structure being utilized through this agreement will significantly reduce the university’s investment in the project. Tentative plans include a mid-2020 construction start and opening of the hotel by late 2022.
While preliminary designs are expected in the coming months, the hotel and conference center (HCC) will feature 250 guest rooms, a 25,000-square-foot conference facility and underground parking garage. Its amenities will include a 15,000-square-foot divisible ballroom, along with 10,000 square feet of individual meeting rooms and pre-function space.
The HCC project reflects a unique partnership between CU Boulder and the city of Boulder that helped pave the way for Thursday’s announcement. For 15 years, both the university and city have looked at filling the gap in large conference space that exists in the city. In addition to increasing opportunities for large campus-related events, the hotel and conference center will strengthen ties with other groups in the community by establishing space where the national labs, businesses, nonprofits and others can bring conferences to town.
Through a 2016 memorandum of understanding, the university agreed to drop consideration of a location at Folsom Street and Arapahoe Avenue and locate the hotel and conference center in the Grandview area of campus, a more constrained and valuable site. The Grandview location was desired by the city to help jumpstart revitalization of University Hill and for its proximity to downtown amenities. The university also agreed to build a larger ballroom than originally planned.
In turn, the city agreed to dedicate 45 percent of the accommodation taxes generated by room occupancy of the facility for a period of at least 20 years to support the project’s financial feasibility. The city agreed to dedicate an additional 10 percent of accommodation taxes to a buy-down fund to support use of the conference center by community groups and nonprofits.
“The collaboration between the city and the university proved vital to creating a hotel conference center that can address the needs of the city, its business community, nonprofits and the university,” said Kelly Fox, CU Boulder chief operating officer.
Terms of the proposed ground lease are still being finalized.
In addition to the ground lease, Thursday’s Board of Regents vote authorized CU Boulder to transfer its rights and obligations as landlord under the ground lease to CU Boulder Enterprise Corp. (CUBEC), a 501(c) (3) non-profit entity formed to benefit the university in oversight and management of the HCC project. Under the terms of the resolution, the CUBEC authorization becomes effective upon CUBEC adding an additional private director and an additional university-appointed director to ensure diverse representation on its board. CUBEC will provide requisite oversight and focus to ensure that the university’s rights and obligations under the lease are enforced, and that the developer complies with its responsibilities under the lease.