Proposed Publicly Subsidized Headquarters Hotel

Like many cities, Portland is contemplating a large public subsidy for the construction of a headquarters hotel near its convention center.  Based on extensive research by our colleagues at Brookings, we’re convinced that this is a expensive and risky undertaking.  Joe Cortright’s testimony to the Metro Council sharply criticized the feasibility study.

Willamette Week commented:  “Influential Portland economist Joe Cortright poked more holes in consultants’ rosy analysis than there are in the carpets of the motels now around the Oregon Convention Center.”

Willamette Week, September 26, 2007

HQ hotel on shaky ground
Respected economist’s objection could sway Metro to pull the plug on project
Jim Redden, The Portland Tribune, Sep 25, 2007

The most recent cost projections reveal such a hotel would not generate enough money to pay for itself.  And now respected local economist Joe Cortright is questioning whether even those estimates are overly optimistic.  Testifying during a council hearing on the project last Thursday, Cortright specifically criticized a study done for Metro by HVS International, saying the estimates were so flawed they should not be relied on.

The Portland Oregonian editorialized

“Portland-area economist Joe Cortright questioned several key assumptions about the hotel , and even pointed out a possible flaw in the math of project consultants. That made everything feel shaky.

The Metro Council, quite properly, has asked that Cortright ‘s questions be addressed quickly.

Admittedly, Cortright ‘s testimony last week was disconcerting. What made it powerful is that, unlike most people at the hearing, Cortright was not there representing a client or even a public agency, but was offering his own independent analysis, and pronouncing the hotel ‘s prospects dim.

“First, nail down the numbers,” The Oregonian, September 24, 2007, page