If the country had banks that were too big to fail, Hartford has a hotel that is too well-sited to fail.
The 392-room Hartford Hilton is connected to the XL Center, and is used in tandem with the coliseum and exhibition space for a variety of shows and events. So the hotel is a key to the city's future in the hospitality industry, and city officials are right to step up in its hour of need.
The hotel, which carried debt from a $33 million renovation that was completed in 2005 into the severe economic downturn of the past two years, is in dire financial trouble. Without help, it is virtually certain the hotel will have to close, putting 140 people out of work. The closing of the lovely Goodwin Hotel downtown in late 2008 makes the survival of the Hilton all the more important.
City officials are seeking a $7 million federal loan for the owners, The Waterford Group. The hotel's chief lender, GE Business Financial Services Inc., has agreed to accept the $7 million in lieu of a $22 million mortgage, in default since last summer. Hartford must hope federal lenders will see the wisdom of the deal and proffer the loan.
The recession has hammered the hospitality industry across the country. If Hartford can keep this property in business, it will be better situated for the recovery we all hope is coming with the spring flowers.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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