CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Charleston Mayor Danny Jones says the Courtyard by Marriott, the new hotel being built in Charleston on Kanawha Boulevard near the Elk River, will help revitalize downtown Charleston.
It will also promote modernizing the Charleston Civic Center into a facility that can attract convention business from around the country.
"We are way behind the times. If we are going to be a player in the convention business, we must remodel our Civic Center," Jones said.
The new hotel, which will have 120 rooms, is expected to open in mid-2014.
Union leaders -- including Steve White, executive director of the Affiliated Construction Trades Foundation -- have criticized the Courtyard by Marriott project for hiring primarily non-union workers. Many of them come from other states.
Charles H. Wendell from Charleston, S.C., is the developer of the new Courtyard by Marriott project. Wendell did not return a telephone message left at his Virginia Inn Management (VIM Inc.) offices in Fayetteville.
The Dickinson family will continue to own the property on which the new hotel is being built.
The Dickinson family, Nelle Chilton of Dickinson Properties and Lewis Payne with Kanawha Land Co. formed a business partnership with Wendell to build the new hotel.
"Wendell comes out of a right-to-work environment in the South," Jones said. "I talked to him about the differences in the labor environment up here. Wendell told me that one union contractor came in bidding $500,000 over our budget."
But Jones believes local union construction workers will benefit from plans to modernize the Civic Center.
"It will cost $50 million in government funds. Since it falls under [the jurisdiction of] the Davis Bacon Act, the jobs will be all union. It will be the biggest union project in Charleston since the Clay Center," Jones said.
White said, "the Dickinsons just lease property. They don't sell it. That drives some people away.
"I certainly hope Mayor Jones is not really satisfied with a developer that excludes local businesses from bidding opportunities to build that hotel.
"That is the issue in a nutshell. We have local businesses and workers who want to work there. And they have been shut out."
The Act Foundation, White said, has been "very supportive of renovation work at the Civic Center."
The Davis Bacon Act, passed in 1931, will require prevailing wages to be paid to workers renovating the Civic Center.