Hours after Chicago's Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority announced plans Tuesday to construct a $400-million hotel near McCormick Place, the city's largest convention center, the site's owner indicated it had invested millions of dollars to locate an alternative project there.

In a written statement, JRM Technology President James R. McHugh said his firm, an affiliate of James McHugh Construction Co., planned to develop a $400-million data center on the site. “The plan has already received City Council approval and we would start construction as soon as a building permit is issued,” said McHugh.

McHugh said the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, also known as McPier, approached JRM, about an alternative location for the project, but considered their discussions “very preliminary.”

McPier, which operates McCormick place, says the planned 1,200-room hotel is critical to boosting convention activity in Chicago, which has lost business to competing locations.

The hotel “is moving forward,” Chicago Deputy Mayor Steve Koch indicated in a statement on Tuesday.“We are in active negotiations with McHugh, and there are a number of potential options that will allow both the data center and world-class hotel to be built. However, the city will pursue every available option to ensure the hotel is built, and brings with it essential redevelopment around McCormick Place.”

McCormick Place currently has only one hotel, the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place, within walking distance of it. As a result, most visitors must travel by bus or taxi to attend meetings there.

McPier CEO Jim Reilly told reporters a new hotel will not only add capacity at McCormick Place, but spur additional development attractive to convention attendees. He also said he is optimistic about negotiations with McHugh. “We think that will work out,” he said. “If for some reason it doesn't work out, the city is prepared to use its eminent domain power.”

Meantime, the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place is undergoing $110 in renovations to be completed this summer.