Artist's rendition of bottom floors of the Fairmont hotel (image from hotelchatter.com)
Texas media are wondering what's holding up the beginning of Papa Doug Manchester's 1035-room hotel in downtown Austin, to be named the Fairmont.
A headline in the Austin Business Journal this week asked, "Hotels abound downtown, but what about the Fairmont?" Wrote the author, "The $350 million question is whether the Fairmont Austin — a 50-story, 1000-room hotel — willl be built." Papa Doug's son, also named Doug, who is in charge of the project, "was adamant last summer that the hotel would break ground in November 2013, but that didn't happen."
A spokesperson for the hotel told the paper that there is no "precise" timeline.
"Randy McCaslin, a hotel expert with PKF Consulting USA in Houston, noted that it might be tough to build another 1000-room hotel at this stage in the game," according to the publication. Experts are predicting that downtown Austin could have a 40 percent increase in hotel rooms in three years (including the proposed Fairmont.) "The market would have a hard time absorbing another 1000 rooms, considering the large number of rooms scheduled to open in 2015, 2016, and 2017," McCaslin told the publication. A 1012-room JW Marriott is expected to open March 1, 2015.
Papa Doug's son told the Austin American-Statesman in a story that ran January 28 that site work began late last year and "will continue as designs are completed, construction costs are nailed down, and our final decisions with respect to financing are made."
I interviewed a hotel expert who didn't want to be named. He said there is a chance that the Austin market could become glutted, considering all the expected new building, and there is a good chance that Manchester is having trouble getting financing. Papa Doug's Grand Del Mar is at best breaking even, he guessed. It's "lovely," but he doesn't see evidence that there is sufficient business, he said.
The Grand Del Mar has been rumored to be troubled in the last couple of years, although some hotel experts think it has been getting healthier.