The Kemah City Council has opted to move forward with a study to determine the feasibility of selling a developer on building a hotel and convention center complex in the city.
The council on last week unanimously approved spending up to $30,000 to hire a consulting firm to determine — first off — whether the Kemah market can sustain such a facility, which also would serve local organizations.
“This is not only a hotel/conference center, but an event center as well,” Mayor Carl Joiner said.
Kemah is the second-most-popular tourism city in Galveston County, attracting some 4 million visitors a year, second only to Galveston Island, which last year drew roughly 6.5 million tourists.
A convention center in Kemah could augment the industry.
“We’re always looking for ways to continue the evolution of the tourism product we offer,” City Administrator Wendy Ellis said. “But we also see this as a need for the entire region and a way to fill some needs of area organizations that aren’t currently being met.”
Ellis alluded to the possibility that other Bay Area communities are considering a similar development, raising the specter of potential competition.
“We know the market will sustain one of these,” she told the council. “Whoever moves on it first will win.”
The Kemah City Development Commission on March 8 recommended funding the study.
“There has been a need expressed for a larger meeting facility in our community,” Ellis said in an agenda summary she presented to the council. “Also, people have talked about the need for additional hotel rooms. Currently, we don’t know if our market could sustain an additional hotel and/or conference center.
“If a feasibility study is conducted and says the market could sustain a hotel/conference center, we would have valuable information to use for marketing and recruiting developers to consider our area for their project.”
City officials have targeted several potential sites for the development.
“We’re looking at possibly three locations,” Joiner said, although declining to publicly identify them.
City officials have reached out to two firms that conduct market assessments.
“We’ve already talked to two companies,” Ellis said, without naming either, other than to say they are based in the greater Houston area. “Both companies that we have touched base with specialize in hospitality-industry feasibility studies and both have done a number of studies for communities and organizations in this region.”
She told the council that the cost of such a study could be as low as $15,000 and wouldn’t exceed the approved $30,000.
Such a project has been bandied about at City Hall for a number of months.
“The concept of something like this has been a topic of conversation since I began working here, just over a year ago,” Ellis said. “It has always held interest for us, but it was probably about six months ago when we started discussing the process for gathering proposals.”
Now, with the city council’s funding approval, the speculation has gained substance.