|By Victoria Manley, The Monterey County Herald, Calif.|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Mar. 12, 2005 - Developer Nader Agha wants to convert a downtown Pacific Grove parking lot into a large, upscale hotel.
Nader Agha intends to build a 300-room hotel in a lot behind the Holman Building, a downtown anchor he has owned since 1995.
"The city wants it and we agree with them," Agha said Friday after his proposed project was introduced to business leaders at the Pacific Grove Chamber of Commerce's annual Awards of Excellence lunch ceremony.
He insists the project is in its earliest stages, though the concept has been discussed informally for several months. In 2003, Agha was asked by the city's economic advisory committee to consider converting the Holman Building, a hotel in the late-19th and early-20th centuries.
The hotel must face several levels of scrutiny before approval. It would require at least 25 acre-feet of water, something Agha does not have secured. Also needed is support from various city-led commissions, the City Council, and a public often opposed to large-scale development.
"We'll be approaching this slowly and gently," Agha said.
The property is bordered by Lighthouse, Grand, Central and Fountain avenues. If built, the hotel would include more than 20,000 square feet of meeting space and street-level retail shops. Initial designs call for a multi-story, v-shaped building with a central plaza facing the ocean, possibly connected to Holman Building by a pedestrian bridge.
"We know it's out there," said Burke Pease, a former tourism industry leader whom Agha has hired as a consultant. "We know it's a challenge. We are prepared to take it one day at a time."
Agha, an oft-controversial developer known for building subdivisions in Salinas and Soledad, also owns a Victorian building across the street from Holman as well as property in downtown Monterey.
Such a large-scale project would be a boon to Pacific Grove's economy, which relies mostly on small boutiques and inns. A hotel that could accommodate large groups and conventions could change the town's bed-and-breakfast reputation into one that rivals that of Monterey and Pebble Beach, which dominates the group-travel market.
"This market is not being served by facilities currently in Pacific Grove," Pease said.
Pease estimates the project could generate up to $1.15 million in hotel tax revenue for the city. He said the hotel would "turn a dormant aspect of downtown Pacific Grove into a productive asset."
A cardboard model of the hotel will be available for viewing and project representatives to address questions from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday at the Pacific Grove Community Center, 515 Junipero Ave.
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Copyright (c) 2005, The Monterey County Herald, Calif.
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