Tuscaloosa Developers Pitch Downtown Hotel, New Parking Deck

A group of entrepreneurs, business leaders, engineers and developers pitched the construction of a high-end hotel in downtown Tuscaloosa that could also add 400 parking spaces, three new restaurants and first-class office space to a “blighted, downtrodden” area of the Druid City.

In a presentation to the city council’s finance committee Tuesday evening, attorney Bryan Winter shared his vision of what he is preliminarily calling “Project Wow.”

“I come today with an opportunity,” Winter said. “An opportunity I don’t think comes along very often — out of all the projects that I’ve worked on with the exception of maybe some industrial things that created an incredible amount of jobs, this is probably the most exciting project. As a matter of fact, the first time I saw the drawings that [architect] Mike Ellis put together I said, ‘Wow!’ and thereafter decided to call this ‘Project Wow,’ but we’re going to have a new name by the end, I hope.”

The plan hinges on developing two vacant spaces along University Boulevard, Greensboro Avenue and Lurleen Wallace Boulevard — the old Insuresoft building and the Downtown Pub / Subs N’ You building across from the Embassy Suites hotel.

Winter said the idea is to build a Hyatt House hotel in the space — the first Hyatt in the Tuscaloosa area — that would offer more than 100 rooms for visitors to the city.

The colossal, $56 million project could also add a parking deck with at least 400 new parking spaces to the downtown area, as well as at least three new restaurants and 30,000 square feet of top-of-the-line office space to be leased.

“This is centrally located and it is going to get rid of a blighted, downtrodden, dilapidated area of the city,” Winter said.

The team behind the pitch is a veritable who’s who of developers and entrepreneurs from the Tuscaloosa area. Anil Patel and Clay Bales of KM Hotels are on board, with Ellis as the architect, TTL handling engineering, Harrison Construction working the build and Gatewood Retail Real Estate overseeing the deal. Winter’s firm, Winter McFarland, is bringing the team together and working with city officials to try to make Project Wow a reality.

Winter said the project could create between 515 and 824 new jobs, generate $25 million long-term in direct revenue for the city and have an additional $132 million economic impact over 20 years.

He pitched a public-private partnership, seeking tax abatements and other incentives to make the project possible, and called it a win-win-win situation for all parties involved.

Winter said the city is “leaving money on the table” because people don’t want to fight for increasingly limited parking in downtown Tuscaloosa, and that the spaces created by the new development would mean more traffic to the area’s restaurants, the Amphitheater, Riverwalk, Saban Center, River District Park and more.

Winter also said the plan is flexible; the developers could cut the office space, the restaurants or both out of the equation to add even more parking spaces in the area.

The council members in attendance said they were extremely interested in the proposal and authorized Mayor Walt Maddox and his team to continue talk with the developers to verify numbers and do other due diligence. Ultimately, they will present a plan for the committee to consider recommending for a full council vote.

“There’s not a lot of opportunities for us to get 300-plus public parking spaces into downtown,” Maddox said after the presentation. “I do think it’s an opportunity — ultimately it’s got to be a good deal for the taxpayers but I do think we could sit down and probably make some progress to bring back to the council.”

Winter said he expects the project to move fast if it is greenlit, and the Hyatt could be operational sometime in 2023.

Watch Winter’s full proposal in the video below, and stay connected to the Tuscaloosa Thread for additional details on this project as they become available.

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