There seemed to be a lot of talk over the holidays about how the city helped the Marriott Courtyard hotel get the cranes moving at the property next to the library.
As we all know, construction was idled for a couple of years and the city, in an attempt to get the ball rolling, wanted to use up the entire amount, and then some, of the $5 million Revitalization Tax Exemption Early Benefit provided by Northern Development Initiative Trust.
It made for good conversation over the holidays, that’s for sure.
One of the comments I heard about the development that piqued my interest was an inference that the Marriott hotel chain is owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints … the Mormons.
It’s not true. The Marriott hotel chain was founded by J. Willard Marriott and is now run by his son Bill Marriott, who are Mormons. There’s a difference.
However, that doesn’t mean they won’t use their church connections.
Even though the Marriott chain is based in Maryland, they brought in PEG Development and Blue Diamond Capital as partners in the local development. Both companies are based in Utah, the heartland of the Mormon religion.
PEG Development is owned by Cameron Gunter, who hails from Idaho. He founded PEG Development in 2003, and it has become one of the leading commercial real estate development firms in Utah.
Blue Diamond Capital is headquartered in Orem, Utah and was founded in 2007. Blue Diamond’s investment interests include hospitality, multi-family, commercial, residential land, and private-equity investments primarily focused in the Intermountain West region of the United States.
PEG Development and Blue Diamond Capital teamed up in 2013 to develop two hotels, a structured parking garage and mixed use retail on a 3.26-acre development site in downtown Salt Lake City (http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20130514006262/en/Alex.-Brown-Realty-PEG-Development-Blue-Diamond).
The people now developing the Prince George hotel do have some experience in this kind of thing, so that’s good news.
There’s nothing to suggest that the folks at PEG Development and Blue Diamond Capital are Mormons, other than they’re based in Utah.
And, so what?
Considering some of the shady characters the province and the feds are doing business with these days, the city doing business with Mormon developers shouldn’t be an issue for anyone.
In addition, the Marriott chain can be progressive.
Bill Marriott, who now runs the company, has been a supporter of the LGBTQ movement for years. The chain offers benefits to spouses of gay employees, joined a coalition of businesses which opposed the U.S. Defence of Marriage Act prohibiting the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages, and opposed California’s Proposition 8 banning gay marriages.
A couple of years ago it launched its #LoveTravels campaign, which targeted the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities.
When asked how he reconciles support for the LGBTQ community and his Mormon beliefs, Bill Marriott said, in a 2008 statement: “The Bible that I love teaches me about honesty, integrity and unconditional love for all people. But beyond that, I am very careful about separating my personal faith and beliefs from how we run our business.” (https://qz.com/216328/how-marriots-owner-put-aside-his-mormon-beliefs-to-cash-in-on-the-lgbt-travel-market/).
A cynic might see that as money trumping God, but I look at it as how businesses should be run.
This does nothing to resolve the question of whether the city should be emptying its economic development revitalization fund for this one project, but at least, hopefully, it sheds some light on who’s coming to town.
• Former U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s given name is, apparently, Willard. He’s named after, you guessed it, J. Willard Marriott.
• About 10 days after the story broke that the city was looking at using all its Revitalization Tax Exemption Early Benefit money on the Marriott proposal, Invest City PG began tweeting about 17 businesses who have capitalized on the downtown façade improvement program, also provided through NDIT.
Damage control? Nah, I’m sure it was just a coincidence.