BY MAIRE O’NEILL
Sources told the Los Alamos Reporter late last week that the 20th Street Extension project has fallen through and is not moving forward. The project was supposed to include the development of an 86-room extended stay Marriott hotel with a conference center that would accommodate 250 to 300 people banquet style.
A company called TNJLA applied in August 2019 for support under the County’s Economic Development Plan in compliance with the Local Economic Development Act (LEDA) for a grant of County owned land on the 20th Street Extension comprised of six lots. The land to be donated appraised at $1,825,000.
Los Alamos County Council was asked in an October 2021 email to provide an extension for the development and opening of the Marriott Town Place and Conference Center to Aug. 31, 2024, a year later than identified in the original Project Participation Agreement approved in 2019. In a letter to County Economic Development Dan Ungerleider,Tushar Patel, president and CEO of the TNJ Group of Companies, said that with the current cost estimates, TNJ was unable to obtain financing for the project.
Patel said development costs were expected to be $3 million higher than projected. He said the cost was expected to come down and the availability of supplies to improve by the second quarter of 2022 at which time the company would break ground. He noted that the company had already invested more than $500,000 in the project and remained committed to developing the hotel and conference center. The original LEDA agreement stated that the project shall be completed and fully open for operation within 48 months of the effective day.
Council Chair Randall Ryti told the Los Alamos Reporter Saturday that he was informed by County staff on May 23 that a LEDA termination agreement was in discussion and then in June 13 he was informed of a draft schedule for publication of the ordinance associated with the hotel and conference center.
“As with any ordinance, there is an introduction and schedule of hearing(s). So far I have not seen the schedule on a list of upcoming agenda items, but I expect to see it on one soon. Once the ordinance is on the upcoming agenda list then the Council would be aware and could ask staff any questions,” Ryti said.
He noted that he highlights agenda items of interest to the community at at regular Council meetings under “Future Agenda Items”.
“I cannot say why there has been no other notice of this possible action,” he said.
Ryti said originally the 20th Street land was subdivided into six lots so that there could be a variety of uses.
“I would like to get community input on potential uses that should include opportunities for local small businesses and possible development of public assets to support needed social services,” he said.
Ryti and former County Councilor Antonio Maggiore voted against the final LEDA agreement for the Marriott project in 2019.
Ungerleider said Monday afternoon that when the termination agreement has been signed by both parties, the County will go through the process of unwinding the LEDA agreement. He said the developer has agreed to pass on the project.
Ungerleider said when the developer asked last October for an extension, it set off an alarm and that he has actually been in a conversation with the developer for a while trying to figure out how to get the deal to move forward or to pull the plug so that the County can start making plans for some other use for the property. The termination agreement is now awaiting the signature of County Manager Steven Lynne. Then an ordinance will be submitted to the County Council with the termination agreement for them to codify.