The Metro Council agreed Wednesday to give a special subsidy to build a new downtown hotel and to waive permit fees for construction of the Knock Knock Children’s Museum.
The hotel subsidy will come through a special taxing district the council approved for a Holiday Inn Express coming to downtown Baton Rouge. The subsidy will help fund construction of the 89-room hotel at the old Baton Rouge Savings and Loan Building on North Boulevard.
The Holiday Inn will have 2 percent of the sales tax on its rooms rebated, and the hotel will levy an additional 2-cent sales tax on rooms and goods to help offset its costs.
In addition to the Holiday Inn subsidy, two more hotels are expected to soon ask the Metro Council for tax-increment financing districts, known as TIFs. Baton Rouge is getting a Courtyard Marriott at the corner of Third and Florida streets, and developer Mike Wampold also announced Wednesday that he plans to turn the old State Office Building into an upscale Marriott Autograph.
The 148-room Marriott Autograph is expected to open by August 2016.
Combined, the hotels will bring downtown Baton Rouge’s total hotel room count to more than 1,000, which has long been a goal of city leaders.
The Capitol House Hilton Hotel started the TIF trend in downtown Baton Rouge when it was renovated in 2006 with the help of tax relief incentives. Many downtown developers have since asked for TIFs, including the new downtown Hampton Inn and Suites and Hotel Indigo.
The council did not discuss the measure before the vote. Councilman Ryan Heck abstained.
The Metro Council also lent help for the construction of the Knock Knock Children’s Museum near City Brooks Community Park and the LSU lakes by waiving more than $10,000 in construction and permitting fees for the museum.
Last month, when the waiver proposal for the nonprofit failed to get the seven votes needed for passage, Heck, Buddy Amoroso, Scott Wilson and Joel Boé had voted at that meeting against waiving the fees. Only five council members voted in favor: Chauna Banks-Daniel, Donna Collins-Lewis, C. Denise Marcelle, John Delgado and Tara Wicker.
But three members, Trae Welch, Ronnie Edwards and Chandler Loupe, were not present for that vote.
Mayor-President Kip Holden stepped in the next day, chiding the council members and donating more than $10,000 of his personal savings to cover the costs of the fees. Holden has been a longtime supporter of the Knock Knock Children’s Museum and has boasted about the tourism advantages it will bring to Baton Rouge.
“I would be surprised if an overwhelming number of your constituents would not want to see you all support this,” museum Chairwoman Staci Deumite Duhé said Wednesday when the issue was brought back before the council.
This time, the fee waiver passed with seven council members voting in favor (Collins-Lewis, Marcelle, Delgado, Wicker, Wilson, Welch and Loupe), two voting against (Boé and Heck), one abstaining (Amoroso) and two absent (Banks-Daniel and Edwards).
Also on Wednesday, the council appointed Elizabeth Hutchison as interim executive director of the Baton Rouge Film Commission. News of Executive Director Liza Kelso’s resignation broke last week.
Hutchison’s contract is for $33,000 a year and she will begin the job Saturday. She is the Baton Rouge programs manager at the New Orleans Video Access Center, where she oversees a training program that includes classes for Baton Rouge residents in film production.
Advocate staff writer Rebekah Allen contributed to this report.
Editor’s note: This article was changed on Thursday, May 14, 2015, to reflect that Mayor-President Kip Holden donated more than $10,000 from his personal savings to the Knock Knock Children’s Museum to help with construction costs.