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Pere Marquette/Marriott project moves forward (4)

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Matthews says contracts shows commitment remains strong

The developer of the Pere Marquette/Marriott Courtyard hotel project said Wednesday that Marriott International Inc. is ready to do up to a half-century of business in downtown Peoria that will bring hundreds of millions of dollars to local coffers.

Gary Matthews, president of EM Properties, said the 30-year management contract for the project, plus options for two, 10-year extensions, shows a commitment from one of the world's top hotel companies that "is extremely valuable to everybody it touches" and shows Marriott has confidence in this area and the other opportunities coming available in the area.

In an exclusive interview with The Peorian, Matthews said the contract with Marriott and a recent contract signed with Core Construction Group of Morton for the $44 million in hard construction -- Pere Marquette renovations, new Marriott Courtyard tower, new parking deck and skywalk to the Peoria Civic Center – shows his own commitment to the project has not wavered and he is within 30 to 60 days of completing all the work needed before construction can begin.

"We will be making some major announcements in the near future. We haven't dropped anything and we are moving forward," said Matthews.

Matthews took exception to comments in recent days from Mayor Jim Ardis and Peoria City Manager Patrick Urich that more needs to be done on the project if it is to move forward. In particular, he said, was an indication by Urich to other media that documents required from EM Properties to the city, under terms of the redevelopment agreement, were not being filed.

Urich acknowledged the city received the contracts with Marriott and Core Construction last week, but only after EM Properties issued a news release to that effect on Tuesday. But he said those were two of 13 requirements within the redevelopment agreement that Matthews was required to meet.

Matthews on Wednesday said all but one of the 13 requirements have been met and the one remaining, which he said he wasn't at liberty to identify, will be met soon. "I thought he knew that," he said of Urich.

He said he and others involved in the project, including on the financial end, will meet with the city in coming days and that he hopes it will be enough to satisfy any remaining concerns about the redevelopment agreement.

Ardis on Wednesday said there remains some disagreement on what documents are needed to satisfy some of the requirements and that he also hopes the upcoming meeting will accomplish that. Otherwise, he added, "after 3½ years the city needs to see in detail where the project is and what is going on. We've been more than patient and we really want this to happen, but we can't tell that it is making any progress."

Ardis agreed the contracts with Marriott International and Core Construction "is great news, but neither of those alone allow you to start mixing mortar. That's why we're still looking for more."

Matthews said he cannot divulge financial terms of the contract with Marriott but said it alone will bring millions of dollars to the city for several reasons, including that convention planners will be excited about coming to a Marriott property and that new development always springs up around Marriott projects.

"The ultimate impact of this project goes well beyond the dollars, when you talk about the jobs that will be created, the conventions and conferences it will bring that otherwise would never have reached here, the kind of entertainment that never would have come here, the overall value to the Civic Center, the people it will bring to the new museum. Then there is the other development that will result, including other new hotel space, retail, help for the Warehouse district. There is a laundry list of things it will do for the entire region," Matthews said.

"There is no way that a project of this magnitude can be an island. It will generate new commerce," he added.

Matthews cited a study by Dr. Robert Scott of Bradley University that said the Pere Marquette project will create approximately 840 jobs during the two-year construction phase and 250 permanent jobs once both hotels are completed and open for operation.

Paul Gordon is editor of The Peorian. He can be reached at 692-7880 or editor@thepeorian.com

About the Author
Paul Gordon is the editor of The Peorian after spending 29 years of indentured servitude at the Peoria Journal Star. He’s an award-winning writer, raconteur and song-and-dance man. He also went to a high school whose team name is the Alices (that’s Vincennes Lincoln High School in Indiana; you can look it up).