State officials want to start construction on a pair of midpriced hotels across from the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center this year, and follow in 2014 with a larger 1,000-room hotel on one of two sites off Summer Street.
The timetable was laid out Monday night during a public hearing on the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority’s plans to expand the massive convention complex. The authority’s director of capital projects, Howard Davis, said the hotel rooms are badly needed to support the South Boston hall and that officials must take steps to get them developed.
“If we continue to wait for these hotels to happen on their own, they are probably not going to happen,” he said, noting that the facility has about 1,700 rooms within a half mile, compared to competing cities that average about 7,600 within that distance.
Private developers have not stepped up to build new hotels in recent years, so the authority is seeking to entice them by purchasing land for their development on D Street and committing to build a 1,350-space parking garage to serve their guests.
The authority paid about $33 million to buy the property last year, and two bidders recently submitted proposals to build 450 and 500 hotel rooms, respectively.
Commonwealth Ventures, which is the developer of the nearby Channel Center complex, wants to build a 275-room Aloft Hotel and a 175-room Element Hotel, which would feature extended-stay rooms. Both would be operated by Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc.
Development of the D Street hotels is the first step in a broader $2 billion expansion that would include a 1,000-room headquarters hotels, a doubling of the convention center’s exhibit space, and construction of public parks and retail stores. Davis said the goal is to start construction of hotels in the next two years, and follow with the new exhibit space in 2015.
During last night’s meeting, a couple of residents expressed concerns that the development of additional hotels would encroach on South Boston neighbors and worsen traffic problems.
But Davis said the hotels on D Street will help provide more business to the convention center, as well as hundreds of jobs and about $5 million in annual tax revenue.
Before construction can begin, the authority must get the Boston Redevelopment Authority to change the zoning on the property, which is now approved for residential construction.
It is unclear when the BRA will make a decision on the matter, but Mayor Thomas M. Menino’s administration has been generally supportive of the convention center’s expansion plans.
James Rooney, executive director of the convention center authority, has long said the convention center is in danger of losing a significant amount of business unless the hotels are developed soon.
He said large trade shows will start to bypass Boston as a destination because the shortage of rooms near the center is inconvenient and adds hundreds of thousands of dollars in transportation costs.
Casey Ross can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.