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County courts developers for airport hotel

Jackson County has the land. Now it wants someone to come and build a hotel near the Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport.

The Jackson County Airport Authority is accepting proposals from developers to build a 100- to 125-room medium to upscale hotel along Biddle Road near the airport terminal.

A consulting firm did a feasibility study for the county to see whether building and running a hotel there would make financial sense, said Jerry Brienza, airport director.

“The report said, yes, this is a good location for a hotel. Any developer would have a good return,” he said.

Developers can submit proposals for just a hotel, or for a hotel plus other business on the 9-acre site, such as a restaurant and retail and office space, Brienza said.

Jackson County would lease the property to the developer.

Brienza said the county isn’t interested in running a hotel itself.

“We don’t want to manage a hotel. Hotel management is a specialty,” he said.

The county is already in the lodging business, but at a more basic level.

The Jackson County Roads and Parks Department runs park campgrounds and also built and operates the Southern Oregon RV Park. The RV park on the grounds of The Expo in Central Point opened in 2016.

The RV park is doing better than expected financially, Jackson County Roads and Parks Department Director John Vial told county officials during budget meetings this spring.

Revenue from the RV park will provide long-term benefits for the county parks system, he said.

As for the proposed hotel near the airport, the county plans to negotiate land lease terms that would return revenue to the airport. The airport is a self-supporting enterprise, Brienza said.

“We don’t ask taxpayers to help fund projects out here at the airport. That’s pretty unique for local airports,” he said.

Lease revenue could help fund future airport projects, he said.

In 2018, the airport served more than one million commercial air passengers in a single year for the first time.

The airport had 664,423 passengers in 2014 and 1,010,920 passengers in 2018, according to data the county provided to developers.

Brienza said passenger counts are even higher for the first quarter of 2019 than they were in the first quarter of 2018.

All that air traffic creates a prime opportunity for a hotel developer, he said.

If all goes well, construction could start in the middle of 2020, with a hotel opening in the first quarter of 2022, according to a preliminary timeline for the project.

The hotel would primarily be competing with 12 medium- to high-end hotels that together have 993 rooms. Two of those hotels are in Central Point while 10 are in Medford, according to a lodging market overview available to interested developers.

Those hotels had an occupancy rate of almost 79% in 2018, up from 75% in 2014, the overview said.

The overall occupancy rate improved even with the addition of the Hilton Garden Inn in 2016 and Holiday Inn Express & Suites in 2018, the overview said.

The average occupancy rate swung from a low of 58% in January to more than 91% in July 2018 for those hotels, according to the overview.

Developers have to send an email to the airport by May 31 saying they intend to submit a proposal. Proposals are due June 28.

The Jackson County Airport Authority expects to pick a hotel developer by Aug. 30.

Find details and the request for proposals response form on the county's website.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.