MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - It will cost nearly $20 million to fix and reopen the historic Chisca Hotel. Members of the Memphis City Council are also talking about the city throwing in $2 million to help renovate the hotel, but with all the talk about the city's budget woes, is it a wise investment?
The idea is to turn the Chisca Hotel into affordable apartments. Other plans have failed in the past and there's no guarantee this one won't.
"Heaven forbid that the city allocates those resources and the company that gets the money goes belly up,” said Memphis City Councilman Harold Collins.
If that happens, the city would be out 2 million bucks. Collins says there is money in the capital improvements budget to redevelop the Chisca Hotel. He just wants to make sure the money is well spent.
"My concerns would be providing city dollars, whether it be capital improvement dollars or operating dollars, to private investors and the city doesn't have any guarantees or insurances on whether or not those projects go forward,” Collins said.
Six years ago there were talks about turning the Chisca into a Hilton Garden Inn but nothing ever happened, and it remained vacant and boarded up. It's been like that for more than a decade.
In the summer of 2011, chunks of concrete fell from the building. Church of God in Christ owns the old hotel and hasn't moved an inch with plans to revitalize it.
Now, the Downtown Memphis Commission is leading the way. It needs to attract private investors to help with about $18 million. Commission President Paul Morris says it can't be done without the city's help.
"It’s not a long shot exactly but there are a lot of hurdles to cross before we can get the Chisca saved and redeveloped,” Morris said. “The private market would've done it by now if it was doable. It's not. The only way to make it work is a public-private partnership."
There will be a full city council vote in June to add the Chisca project into the capital budget.