City-financed hotels are all the rage

Did hotel and real estate developers make some sort of presentation at a city administration trade show recently? Because it certainly does seem odd that I keep seeing references to cities (Nashville, Washington, D.C., and Baltimore among them) desperate and eager to build convention center-style hotels, sometimes regardless of the cost.

The most recent was the Chicago suburb of Oak Park, which wants to give a developer the land and a $500,000 subsidy to build a hotel — and it will throw in a new, $9.8 million parking garage. Said one village trustee: "The notion of a hotel is an adventure worth trying."

You can argue the merits of city-owned or -financed hotels, but at least I understand why big cities want one. But a 50,000 population suburb that sits next to one of the world’s great cities? And is just 20 minutes from O’Hare Airport and the hundreds of hotel rooms that surround it? And where did this notion of cities — large and small — as real estate developers come from?

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