The future of a hotel and convention center proposed for Sherman’s south side is in question following market changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This week, Sherman city leaders said a proposed convention center and hotel along FM 1417 may not be in the cards for the city’s immediate future, but could be relocated elsewhere once market forces stabilize.
The conference center and hotel were originally proposed to be built in the Bel Air Village development and would likely have a symbiotic relationship with Schulman’s Movie Bowl Grille.
"I wouldn’t be surprised if we move away from that at the Bel Air site, for sure," City Manager Robby Hefton said. "We kind of have clearance from everybody involved that it won’t be harmful if we pivot our thoughts of a hotel and conference center away from here and to another location."
The conference center would have been a major component of the Bel Air Village Development, a 278-acre mixed-use development near the southeast corner of the intersection of FM 1417 and U.S. Highway 75. In addition to the conference center, the proposed development, which was expanded during a recent P&Z meeting, would include a mixture of commercial and residential developments with a focus on multi- and single-family residences.
The market for hotels and conference centers has shifted since the COVID-19 pandemic with a swift drop in revenue for these and other related businesses.
"We have had conversations, and while nothing has been finalized, I would just say that my view of the hospitality market — hotels, conference centers, convention centers and the things around those types of venues — have softened considerably over the last four or five months," Hefton said.
The proposed conference center was a recurring topic for the City Council and staff during planning for future development in the city. In 2019, the City Council discussed what involvement and assistance it would potentially have in the creation of a conference center. While not ruling out some involvement, city leaders noted that they did not plan to build or own a hotel.
"I can tell you with a high degree of certainty that we are not in the hotel business and we will not be owning a hotel or building a hotel on city dollars," Hefton said in 2019.
Sherman Community and Support Services Manager Nate Strauch said the Bel Air Development does not hinge on the convention center portion of the development and it would likely transition this space to another use.
Hefton said the potential use could be a myriad of things including additional residential uses or more commercial and retail. Both of these types of developments would be "more fitting in today’s climate."
"Even commercial retail is less susceptible than hotel and hospitality to rapid swings in the market," Hefton said.. "I would pretty much say anything other than hotel conference center. That’s not a cop out, it’s just the reality of it."
Hefton would not rule out a possible return for the project at another location once market conditions have stabilized. However, he did not say where a potential conference center would fit in the city’s land use plans and projections.
It would likely need to be next to a larger draw or amenity, much like the original planned relationship with Schulman’s MBG.
"I think there is probably still demand there if you take a long term perspective," he said. "You are not going to see one of these pop up aside from near another large draw."
Michael Hutchins is the local government reporter for the Herald Democrat. He can be reached at email@example.com.