The Downtown Convention Center is one step closer to becoming a reality. Wednesday Wilmington City Council approved more than $6 million to begin phase one of the construction. In the end, City Council agreed to fund initial construction but there was a debate among City Council members. The current convention center plan is without a hotel and some members say that's not the convention center plan they want to see go forward. "For the last few days I have wrestled with the issue of whether or not this was really the dream I signed on to support," Council member Laura Padgett said. "And it really isn't." Padgett is a long-time supporter of the convention center. However, she expressed concerns that approving funding to begin construction without plans for a hotel wouldn't be the best thing for a project that's been in the making for nearly a decade. Instead, she asked council to wait to see the hotel portion of it rebid. "We've gotten this far and we've spent a lot of money and a lot of time but we but we don't have a first class, first quality hotel," Padgett said. The original developer, Armada Hoffler, backed out of an agreement to provide a first-class hotel. Currently there are several companies interested in building a hotel here but no firm deal is in place. Some council members say when convention center construction begins, the hotel portion will follow. "Lets get our convention center, we've had enough vacillating and and arguing it's time to take action and do something," Council member Jim Quinn said. The funding passed by a six-to-one vote. Pat Delair was the lone no vote. In the meantime, the project manager says the construction could begin as early as a month. That construction would include leveling the dirt pile, and building the parking deck. The ordinance will have a second reading on November 20.
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