by Cheryl-Anne Sturken | March 2, 2016

Rendering of the proposed Hyatt hotel in Kansas CityThis past Feb. 11 in Kansas City, Mo., a judge ruled that the group Citizens for Responsible Government was not entitled to a public vote on its challenge to the financing of a proposed $311 million 800-room Hyatt hotel. The CRG had 30 days from that ruling to ask the judge to reconsider, and then another 10 days to appeal that decision to the Missouri Court of Appeals. The group declined to do so and has withdrawn its proposed measure.

The decision by Jackson County Circuit judge Jennifer Phillips paves the way for groundbreaking of the project as early as this coming fall. In her ruling, Phillips agreed with the city attorney's office and the hotel's developer that the petitioners' effort, which included garnering 1,700 signatures of registered voters demanding the hotel's financing be put on an election ballot, was unconstitutional. She said the CRG's measure was vague, conflicted with state law and would have caused the city to be in breach of contract with the developer.

"The city lawfully entered into agreements with the developer and other parties for the development and financing of the project," Phillips wrote. "Regardless of the outcome, an election as required by the proposed ordinance would delay the approved hotel project and cause the city to be in breach of the executed agreements." She noted that Kansas City's city council had approved the proposed hotel last July.

The convention hotel, which would be the city's first since the Reagan administration, was announced with much fanfare last May. It will be funded through a public-private financial deal and, if groundbreaking takes place this fall, is expected to be completed by 2019. Prior to the project's delay due to the CRG's legal challenge, the hotel had been on target to open by 2018. Originally proposed as a 1,000 room property, the 800-room Hyatt will be built on land just east of the Kansas City Convention Center's Bartle Hall ballroom. Features will include 75,000 square feet of meeting and event space, about 500 parking spaces, a restaurant and lounge, fitness facilities and retail space. The deal also calls for Hyatt to be the sole F&B caterer for the next 15 years for events held at the convention center's grand ballroom.

When the project was announced, city planners said Kansas City ranked poorly among its convention-industry peers based on the lack of hotel rooms within a half mile of its downtown convention facilities (the city currently has a total of 14,000 hotel rooms). The lack of lodging was blamed for the city losing out on significant potential convention business, as many as 5.5 million room nights, between 2005 and 2015. With the new convention hotel on the horizon, VisitKC, the destination's marketing organization, said it has already been working with larger conventions interested in using the hotel in 2020 and 2021.

When the Hotel Insider asked Ronnie Burt, president and CEO of VisitKC, what Judge Phillip's decision meant for the city's convention business, he said, "We are thrilled that the legal process has come to an end and that now we are one step closer to an 800-room convention center hotel. Our sales team and prospective clients are eager to advance discussions and see a shovel go in the ground."