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Palm Beach County Will Try Again to Pick Developer
 for a 350- Hotel Adjacent to Convention Center

In Running Are the Related Companies, FRI Investors Inc., Shiraz Inc. and Acquest Realty Advisors

By Andy Reid, Sun Sentinel, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Mar. 9, 2010 --Already burned by a convention center development deal gone bust, Palm Beach County commissioners on Tuesday are expected to get back into the hotel business.

The commission will be asked to pick a developer for a long-sought-after hotel beside the Palm Beach County Convention Center in downtown West Palm Beach.

Stalled construction, along with commission corruption scandals, plagued past efforts to build a 350-room hotel, which local officials consider vital to turning the convention center into prime destination for big-time events.

"To me, it's a must," Commission Chairman Burt Aaronson said about pursuing the hotel deal. "Without that, the convention center will never be a success."

A county selection committee in February recommended the commission pick The Related Companies, developer of CityPlace across the street from the convention center. Its proposal includes a Hilton hotel.

With any developer chosen, county officials would first negotiate a contract. Financing, including the public's share, needs County Commission approval.

The previous hotel plan that the county scrapped in 2008 called for at least $21 million in public money.

Three other contenders to build the hotel are FRI Investors Inc., Shiraz Inc. and Acquest Realty Advisors.

Shiraz attorney Neil Schiller said the commission should negotiate with all of the development groups to "see who brings back the biggest, best deal for the county," Schiller said.

The failed convention center hotel deal that commissioners approved in April 2007 called for Ocean Properties to build a 400-room Westin hotel and a 104-unit condominium tower and parking garage.

Construction never started and the commission terminated the deal in October 2008.

During that time, a federal corruption probe found at least two county commissioners had accepted free or discounted hotel stays or other gifts at Ocean Properties' hotels without disclosing their personal gain with a company doing business with the county.

Andy Reid can be reached at abreid@SunSentinel.com or 561-228-5504.

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Copyright (c) 2010, Sun Sentinel, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

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