Hyatt planner says no to arena TEE site

Developer Courtland Dusseau says he’s not interested in building a Hyatt hotel downtown if the James Brown Arena’s exhibition hall becomes the trade, exhibit and event center site.

Taking the city’s $20 million on hand and using it to renovate the arena was proposed by former Mayor Bob Young in a letter to the editor published in The Chronicle on Sunday, and Mayor Pro Tem Alvin Mason has since said in television news interviews that the idea warrants serious consideration.

Mr. Dusseau, managing partner for Alabama-based Legacy Hospitality, had planned to build a $25 million Hyatt Place Hotel & Business Center on Reynolds Street near the current TEE center site. The Augusta Commission voted to put it there in 2007, but this year the board has split along racial lines over whether it should be funded for $38 million and how to balance it with a deal to fund revitalization of the blighted Laney-Walker and Bethlehem neighborhoods.

The developer said his concept hinged on the center being near the Augusta Common, the Savannah River and existing convention center inside the Augusta Marriott Hotel & Suites. Were the TEE center in the James Brown Arena, conventioneers would have to somehow be transported to and from their hotel rooms.

“It just doesn’t make sense,” Mr. Dusseau said. “It’s not thinking of the guests.”

Mr. Dusseau said the Augusta Common could be used as expanded event space. Out-of-towners would also want to be near the lively scene on Broad Street, he said, and the James Brown Arena is just too out of the way.

“They have the best site where it is,” Mr. Dusseau said.

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