Manchester Signs $247M Deal To Build Austin Hotel

U-T San Diego Publisher “Papa” Doug Manchester, whose development company three decades ago built San Diego’s first major convention hotel, on Wednesday inked a nearly $247 million contract to construct a 47-story convention hotel in Austin, Texas.

Construction on the 1,054-room Fairmont Austin, which will be linked to the Austin center via a skybridge, is expected to get under way by September, said Manchester. Developing the hotel is Manchester Texas Financial Group, a subsidiary of San Diego-based Manchester Financial Group.

Constructing the project is Hunt Construction Group, which also worked with Manchester on building the San Diego Marriott Marquis & Marina in 1984 and the Manchester Grand Hyatt nearly a decade later. The total cost of the hotel development, which already has all its necessary approvals, is $370 million.

The project comes at a time when Austin is enjoying healthy growth and its downtown area is in need of convention lodging, Manchester said. Already under construction is the JW Marriott, a 1,000-room downtown hotel expected to open next year.

“The Fairmont Austin will be the premier hotel, in my opinion, in Austin, and it will have the only direct connection to the convention center, so I believe it will be the headquarters hotel for the citywide conventions that take place there,” said Manchester, whose son Douglas Manchester is overseeing the project. “It will allow for citywide conventions to take place, but right now Austin is having a very difficult time doing citywides because of the lack of megahotels.”

At 560 feet tall, the Austin hotel will be the city’s second-tallest high-rise. Manchester, whose company is finalizing documents for the project’s financing, believes that once the hotel is completed, it will have a value of roughly $500 million.

He sold the 1,625-room Manchester Grand Hyatt in downtown San Diego in 2011 for $570 million.

Hunt Construction Group Chairman Robert Hunt recalled when he first started working with Manchester years ago at a time when Manchester was just getting started on redeveloping San Diego’s waterfront.

“Now there’s Doug again, taking that same vision he had years ago in the 1980s for San Diego,” Hunt said. “It’s so exciting to come full circle and do more together.”

Manchester said he’s so passionate about Austin’s continued growth that he is looking at future opportunities to do additional hotel, office and residential development.

Meanwhile, he is hoping his proposed $1.2 billion plan to redevelop the foot of Broadway in San Diego into a hotel-retail complex can move forward later this year once litigation by the California Coastal Commission is resolved. The coastal agency last year sued the Navy and Manchester after waiting more than a year for the Navy to revise its plans, which the commission considered out of date in light of downtown’s development changes in recent years.

Manchester Financial also has plans for a $200 million, mixed-use San Diego project that would be developed alongside the existing U-T San Diego Mission Valley building.

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