|By Delawese Fulton, The State, Columbia,
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
May 24, 2006 - Two new hotels are on the horizon for downtown Columbia as the city center experiences new growth and investor interest.
Naman Hospitality and Sree Hospitality Group LLC plan to build hotels along the Huger Street corridor -- the first since the Comfort Suites at Taylor Street opened four years ago.
Those additions -- along with the 222 rooms promised by the convention center Hilton hotel -- could signal a significant improvement in the growth and quality of Columbia's hotel inventory, which has been flat for at least three years.
"It's Columbia just being discovered for its climate -- weather and business climate," said Dave Zunker, vice president of the Columbia Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau.
"Columbia is very welcoming ... and it's trickling over into investments."
Including the hotel projects, Zunker said, Columbia has attracted investments totaling $500 million in the coming five to 10 years.
Several projects in and around the Congaree Vista -- the planned Hilton, USC's Innovista project, college and minor league baseball, condo development and other major hotels undergoing hefty renovations -- are sparking development in the Huger Street corridor, Columbia Mayor Bob Coble said.
And that development, Coble said, is boosting Columbia's standing as a viable market for conventions and tourists.
"All are leading growth toward the (Congaree) River ... and all the way to Olympia," Coble said.
Compared to the full-service Hilton, scheduled to open in summer 2007, the Naman and Sree hotels will be limited-service.
Ashok Patel, chief executive of Naman hotels, said construction will begin late this summer and take about a year to complete. He would not speculate on what brand the hotel would open under, citing negotiations.
He did say it would be a 75,000-square-foot extended-stay hotel with units twice the size of regular hotel rooms.
Given concerns about traffic near the proposed location of the hotel -- just south of where I-126 and Huger meet -- Patel said guests will enter and leave the hotel grounds along Richland Street, not Huger.
Naman already owns three Columbia hotels in the Harbison area -- a Hampton Inn, Holiday Inn and Wingate Inn.
Sree hotels is also no newcomer to the Columbia market and has reported its interest in developing a hotel on Huger since 2000.
The company owns two Columbia hotels -- the Governor's House Hotel downtown and the Fairfield Inn by Marriott near Columbiana Centre -- and once owned a Comfort Inn on Two Notch Road.
Like Naman, Sree has not reached an agreement on a hotel flag yet. Sree chief executive Ravi Patel, no relation to Ashok Patel, said it probably will be another three weeks before the hotel's brand can be announced.
Sree plans for its hotel to have 120 to 140 rooms and consist of four to five floors. Construction on the hotel is expected to begin this fall and be completed by the end of 2007, Ravi Patel said.
Reach Fulton at (803) 771-8659.
Copyright (c) 2006, The State, Columbia, S.C.
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