A hotel at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium complex could raise about $315,100 in annual net tax revenue for Delaware County.

A hotel at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium complex could raise about $315,100 in annual net tax revenue for Delaware County.

That's according to Randall Gross' economic impact study, which he presented Feb. 17 to the county commissioners.

The county had awarded an $18,900 contract to Gross to conduct a zoo hotel economic impact study. Community Development Block Grant revolving loan funds paid for the project. Gross has offices in Washington, D.C. and South Africa.

According to contract specifications, Gross delivered two presentations, one focusing on the present economic impact of the zoo and the other focusing on the impact of the proposed hotel. Gross based his hotel findings on the market feasibility study conducted by David Sangree of Cleveland-based Hotel and Leisure Advisors.

Gross projected that a 175-room hotel would create 223 direct and 136 induced jobs, for a total of 359 jobs. Induced figures are generated throughout the economy, or what Gross described as "the multiplier effect." Including sales, income and bed tax, Delaware County would receive a total of about $315,100 in tax revenues. Franklin County would receive about $919,500 in tax revenues. Those figures include direct and induced amounts.

If done correctly, the hotel could be an attraction in itself, Gross said. The hotel could be themed to match the zoo complex, and visitors could possibly have nighttime zoo privileges. The establishment would offer themed restaurants, retail, arcade and family entertainment and a 15,000 square-foot meeting space. Amenities including mini-golf, spa, pool and shuttle would also be available.

County economic development director Gus Comstock told ThisWeek the location and funding for the hotel are still being discussed. Delaware County wants to cooperate with Franklin County on the project, he said.

"It's kind of an exciting time as we're coming out of this recession," he said.

Comstock said the county could partner more with the zoo.

"The zoo contributes to people coming here," Comstock said.

Though the hotel would be in Liberty Township, the zoo could apply for public incentives through the county, Comstock said.

Commissioner Tommy Thompson said he is enthusiastic about the project and the idea of a themed hotel. The project would be good for Franklin County and "it won't hurt us either," Thompson said.

Jerry Borin, special projects director at the zoo, told ThisWeek the board committee in charge of the hotel evaluation could take the remainder of the year to make a recommendation to the board.

"There's no hard and fast timeline on this," Borin said, describing the process as a lengthy one. The committee is speaking with hotel developers and operators to look into possible partnerships. The zoo would need a partner to have the hotel, he said. Additionally, Borin said the market study the zoo is using might have to be updated, since it was done in mid-2008, before the economic downturn.

"It's a different market out there now," Borin said.

In 2008 the zoo started exploring the possibility of a hotel, Borin said.

Plans for an African savannah are included in the zoo's master plan. Borin said the savannah is still in the planning stages, and estimates that it will arrive within a couple years. It was discussed that the hotel's success would depend on the completion of the savannah.