|By Mike Pramik, The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
May 12, 2005 - Lodging options at Port Columbus are expected to change with the sale of five hotels by local developer Don Kenney.
Dublin-based Platinum Ridge Properties purchased the hotels and a nearby McDonald's this week for $29.5 million. The company's four partners say they're planning up to $2 million in renovations. They intend to change the brands of two of the hotels and could add a sixth hotel at some point.
''The airport market has always been the strongest in Columbus, and we expect it to continue,'' said Platinum Ridge partner Matt Studer.
The properties include the 2-year-old Hilton Garden Inn and the Concourse Hotel, which opened as a Sheraton in the early '70s. The others are Comfort Suites, Cross Country Inn and Hampton Inn.
Platinum Ridge now owns 12 hotels, mostly in central Ohio.
Kenney at one time owned nearly three dozen Cross Country Inns, a chain he founded. The sale to Platinum Ridge marks his exit from the hotel business.
Kenney, who has built thousands of apartments under the Triangle Real Estate Services name, has been focusing on single-family housing and golf-course development. The golf operations include Kinsale Golf and Fitness Club and Scioto Reserve Golf & Athletic Club. He's planning another in southern Delaware County, north of the 2005 Parade of Homes site.
Kenney was unavailable for comment yesterday.
The airport hotels are on Columbus Regional Airport Authority land, whose approval of the sale was required. Platinum Ridge now has the right to build hotels on airport property. A Platinum Ridge affiliate will manage the hotels.
''We felt good about the deal,'' said authority spokesman David Whitaker. ''They seem like a great business, and they're ready to invest into the existing properties right away.'' Studer said most renovations will be done to the Concourse Hotel and Hampton Inn, which will receive new furniture, carpeting and other items.
Platinum Ridge partner Fred Graft said he sees solid growth for the hotels, which appear to be recovering from the slump in business following 9/11.
Hotel consultant Eric Belfrage said the airport-area hotel count was 12 in 2000 and has grown to 21. The market includes Easton, which has experienced a boom in hotel business led by the Columbus Hilton and Courtyard by Marriott.
Occupancy at airport and Easton hotels rose last year to 68 percent from 63 percent the year before. The hotels' average daily room rates increased 3.1 percent, to $91.68 from $88.89.
''The group of hotels that Platinum is buying is a good group because it covers the range of market segments from lower-tier to upscale hotels with Hilton Garden Inn,'' Belfrage said.
Platinum Ridge officials are counting on other factors besides travelers for business. One is the water park planned at the company's Holiday Inn Columbus East, which is about 6 miles from the airport. The Holiday Inn takes overflow airport business, but that will end once the hotel's 278 rooms are tied to the water park.
The water park will be available to those staying at the five airport hotels, Graft said.
''We'll have the ability to let guests at the airport hotels shuttle out and buy a day pass for the water park,'' he said.
Platinum Ridge also is expecting a bump in business from the $95 million Veterans Affairs medical clinic being built not far away in Whitehall.
Since the Concourse was Kenney's brand and because the Cross Country Inns name is disappearing, Platinum Ridge partner Pete Coratola said his firm is talking with other hotel companies about rebranding those two properties.
Platinum Ridge's plans are to convert the Concourse to a Best Western and to fly the Baymont Inn & Suites flag at the Cross Country Inn. Platinum Ridge owns the Baymont at Polaris.
The Concourse has an athletic club that will switch operators. Studer said central Ohio businessman Sam Bishop will operate the new club.
Platinum Ridge also took ownership of the McDonald's restaurant on International Gateway, which it will lease back to McDonald's.
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