COLUMBIA — The Tiger Hotel will be changing hands after the Columbia City Council approved the transfer Monday night.
The council voted to approve an amendment to the redevelopment agreement for the Tiger Hotel Tax Increment Financing District.
The amendment will change the name of the developer on the TIF agreement from the hotel's original developer, Tiger Columns LLC, to Columbia Hotel Investments Inc. This will allow Glyn Laverick of Columbia Hotel Investments Inc. to purchase the hotel from current owners John Ott, Dave Baugher and Al Germond.
According to the proposal brought before the council, after the purchase, Laverick would assume operational control of the project, but the present owners would remain heavily invested.
City Manager Bill Watkins said the amendment to the agreement would essentially change the name of the developer's firm.
“It makes no changes in the TIF or redevelopment agreement that was put together with the Tiger Hotel,” he said.
Watkins said the TIF agreement has already been extended twice because no funding was available for the project. Now, “developers have come back with an option that provides the funding to do the project,” he said.
Watkins also said the TIF agreement is set up so the developer gets no TIF funding unless the project is successful. Regardless of what happens to the project, the city would see no financial loss.
Attorney Craig Van Matre said his clients, the present owners of the Tiger Hotel, have a half-finished project that needs to be finished, and the restructured financing would allow them to do that. He reiterated that the change would pose no risk to the city and that any risk would be to his clients and Laverick. He said his clients have no chance of making a profit from the project, but they want to see it succeed.
Fourth Ward Councilman Daryl Dudley said he was hesitant about the change. He said officials had been expecting financing to come from a bank or a financial institution, not an individual.
"We don't have anything to lose, except to get egg on our face if this fails," Dudley said. "There has been some bad publicity for where the money is coming from, for Mr. Laverick."
Dudley also said some of his constituents approached him with concerns after reading about Laverick, who has received negative news coverage over unsuccessful business deals in Marshall and in the Canadian province of Ontario.
"I've been in contact with people who were involved with him in Marshall," Dudley said, "and I have to say that a lot of people in Marshall were not very happy when he left. So, I'm not certain how I feel about this just yet."
Mayor Bob McDavid said the previous council passed the TIF with due diligence.
“Their hope, that council’s hope and our hope right now is that the Tiger Hotel is a successful project, that it is vibrant, that it is active, that it brings a lot of people and activity to the downtown area,” he said.
That hasn’t changed, he said; the only change is that the owners had not been able to get conventional financing. He said he doesn't know Laverick, but the plan is structured so there is no risk to citizens. He said the city has the potential to benefit from a successful project, and so he supported the bill.
Third Ward Councilman Gary Kespohl said he respects the hotel’s present owners and their decisions. He said the city has nothing to lose, so they should support the change.
Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe agreed with Kespohl and added that the owners of the hotel have a reputation in the community for good judgment.
“You have the potential of a really great project that we hope will come to fruition,” she said.
The bill passed unanimously, minus the vote of First Ward Councilman Paul Sturtz, who was not present.