MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

July 12, 2014

Study favors central hotel

Downtown needs one for revival, consultant says

Consultants hired by the city concluded there is a need to develop a full-service mid- to upper-scale hotel and convention center in downtown Muskogee.

Building the 120- to 150-room facility and upgrading the Muskogee Civic Center to complement the hotel and banquet facility would come at a cost. But consultants said there is little hope for downtown revitalization without it.

City councilors were briefed Tuesday about the findings of an $85,000 to $95,000 feasibility and market opportunity study conducted by Lodgewell and Hunden Strategic Partners. Dave Mashburn of Lodgewell said he is “encouraged” about the findings of the studies even though the regional market is highly competitive.

“We think there is some great data there that will allow us to craft a good proposal and a good development plan,” Mashburn said. “We think it’s positive enough information to take that next step, and we would like to do that.”

Ethan Olson of Hunden, which conducted the market opportunities component of the feasibility study, summarized the highlights of the study. He said there is a strong existing demand for hotels, but those that exist are too small to accommodate large banquets or conventions.

“There is a limited supply of quality hotel and motel rooms and none of those are actually downtown,” Olson said. “The Civic Center is the largest meeting and event space downtown, but it is outdated and has limited amenities compared with some of the regional facilities.”

Olson said while growth in Muskogee has been stagnant for more than two decades, northeastern Oklahoma has seen 20 percent growth during recent years indicating greater interest in the region. He said the diversity of Muskogee businesses means it could weather any economic downturns some sectors might experience while others flourish.

In addition to Civic Center improvements that would have to be made, Olson said the key to a successful downtown hotel and convention complex are entertainment and dining opportunities. He cited the planned construction of a new Muskogee Little Theatre downtown as a step in the right direction, but said more is needed within a walkable distance to support a full-service hotel.

“There needs to be a glue downtown, because once people are coming downtown to the Civic Center, what are they doing when they leave?” Olson said. “What amenities are allowing people to linger longer once they are done with there ultimate destination?”

Olson said an analysis of existing hotels and motels shows occupancy rates in the Muskogee market are rising along with the number of rooms. He said that is an indicator that additional rooms are needed, and the hotels and motels along U.S. 69 could benefit from the overflow from a hotel and convention complex in downtown Muskogee.

“This is a very good sign for the market,” Olson said. “There is no benefit to adding just a room-only hotel, that is what the market is already doing.”

A 20-page executive summary attached to the full findings of the studies concludes “a larger conference-style hotel” would “bring in new group business to itself and the market.” The best site for that to happen, the authors of the study conclude, is adjacent and connected to the Civic Center.

“I think it goes back to ... is your commitment to downtown,” Mashburn said in response to inquiries about the risk of doing nothing. “In a lot of ways this project is integral to the revitalization of downtown.”

City Manager Howard Brown Jr. said the next step is to look at creating a development agreement and exploring the options available for the proposed project. He is expected to present within 60 days some options for city councilors to consider.

Reach D.E. Smoot at (918) 684-2901 or dsmoot@muskogeephoenix.com.

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