The race is on in Greater Des Moines to win approval for a state economic development program approved by the Iowa Legislature with one project in mind: a future convention center hotel in downtown Des Moines.

A developer has been chosen for what is expected to be a 450-room convention hotel just southwest of the Iowa Events Center.

The city of Des Moines, Mortenson Development Inc. of Minneapolis, Des Moines Redevelopment Co. and the Downtown Community Alliance will begin work soon to have the area declared an Iowa Reinvestment Act district under a competitive process in which the Iowa Economic Development Authority will decide the winners and losers. Projects must cost at least $10 million and they must be of a "unique nature," at least under the consideration of the IEDA board.

The downtown Des Moines hotel could face competition from a project being proposed for another hot development location, this one in West Des Moines.

Developer William Spencer owns about 260 acres at the southeast corner of what will be a fancy diverging diamond interchange that will be under construction later this year at Interstate 80 and the Alice's Road/105th Street corridor linking Waukee and West Des Moines. That corridor is expected to generate several billion dollars in commercial and residential development.

Spencer has asked the West Des Moines City Council to approve his application to have a section of that land designated as a reinvestment district so that he can build a convention center hotel and retail center that would sidle up to an indoor recreational facility and outdoor baseball and soccer fields. The development, called We Compete SportsPlex at Pavilion Park, is a project that Spencer has kicked around for several years while awaiting approval for the Interstate 80 interchange to be constructed.

Spencer could not be reached for comment today.

West Des Moines City Manager Greg Sparks said the developer is aware that he will be competing for the designation and ultimate funding boost in which a portion of sales tax and hotel/motel tax revenues generated by the project would be pumped back into the district.

If his application fails, Spencer will spread out the various construction phases for the development, Sparks said.

Under the state law, the reinvestment districts cannot be larger than 25 acres. Pre-applications are due between March 1 and March 15.