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Audit Shows Baltimore City-Owned Hilton Hotel Is Losing Millions

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BALTIMORE (WJZ)—A new report shows a hotel owned by Baltimore City is in the red, losing nearly $54 million since it opened in 2008.

Weijia Jiang has more on what went wrong and reaction from developers.

Controversy has surrounded this hotel since well before it was even built. Now financial concerns from back then are a reality. But financial experts say they can still make it work.

When Baltimore City opened the Hilton Hotel in 2008, it came with big expectations.

“We expect this hotel to not only pay for itself and produce many jobs but literally over its many years to produce revenue,” said Baltimore Hotel Corp. Chief Jay Brodie in a 2008 interview.

But in a newly released audit, the hotel lost nearly $54 million since it opened–$11.5 million in 2011 alone.

“We have a building here that’s making nothing.  Turn that into something that can make some kind of revenue instead of depending on the poor people to pay the taxes for it,” said Sharron Foreman, Baltimore City taxpayer.

Developers with the Baltimore Hotel Corp. insist none of the loss has been in cash, only on paper. That means so far they have not used any taxpayer money to pay the bills.

The $300 million spent on the Hilton came in the form of fixed-rate bonds. The city says most of what’s in the red is the result of depreciation.

So what went wrong? Planners say the recession means fewer conventions and lower room rent rates. They also point to an image problem.

“If their perception of Baltimore is ‘The Wire,’ we need to correct that perception,”a developer said.

Still, there’s hope.

“We’re encouraged that things are starting to turn around. Convention customers are giving us positive feedback about our destination,” said Amy Calvert, Visit Baltimore.

In fact, we found plenty of visitors who hope the Hilton will make the money needed to stay put.

“It’s one of the nicer hotels I stayed in, actually. I stay in Hiltons all the time. It would be a real shame if they actually shut it down,” said Jim Hartzell, Hilton guest.

But developers admit they have no idea when they will begin to make a profit and say if they stop making enough to cover bills, they’ll start dipping into reserves.

Convention planners say Baltimore is beating out cities like Philadelphia and Boston as a destination.

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