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The Great Hotel Debate: The market is working

| Monday, April 19, 2004

While some in this town continue to blindly push for the construction of a new hotel to "complement" the new David L. Lawrence Convention Center, others -- with a better handle on the manifest dangers -- are questioning the conventional "build-it-and-they-will-come" mentality.

How refreshing.

Conventional wisdom -- fueled more by spin than facts -- long has held that a heavily publicly subsidized hotel was needed to serve the totally publicly subsidized center. And there were many plans proposed to molest the public to build a new hotel.

But a funny thing happened on the way to trying to turn out the public's pockets -- the market responded. Hundreds of new hotel rooms have or are being added, and largely the work of the private sector. In fact, more rooms -- about 800 -- have been added in three years than the 500 proposed rooms the new hotel would offer.

Now, the proprietors of those new rooms and those already here are rightly questioning the wisdom of adding even more hotel rooms. A dearth easily could become a glut. And these are rooms that very well could be publicly subsidized, "government" rooms that could drive "private" rooms out of business.

The market has done much to meet the demand for new hotel rooms in Pittsburgh. If the government can temper its insatiable appetite to intervene, we'll bet the market will offer all the rooms that are needed. What's not needed is another government-sponsored white elephant.

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