|By Mike Pramik, The Columbus Dispatch,
OhioMcClatchy-Tribune Business News
Sep. 28, 2006 - Nearly two decades after developer Robert Weiler shared his vision for the Polaris development with Columbus and Delaware County officials, the last major piece of the 1,200-acre puzzle has snapped into place.
Weiler's NP Limited and Platinum Ridge Properties, a central Ohio hotel developer, have begun work on the $54 million Polaris Hilton and Conference Center at I-71 and Polaris Parkway. The Hilton, downsized a bit from original drawings, promises 253 rooms, 14,000 square feet of meeting space and an overdue dash of lodging luxury to the Polaris area.
"We've always wanted to have a full-service hotel with convention facilities from the time we had our first office tenants," Weiler said. "We already have excellent hotels, but we don't have a full-service hotel. They will complement each other."
Upon completion in spring 2008, the Polaris Hilton will offer a ballroom of 10,000 square feet, a restaurant and a spa and indoor pool. The location is prime: just east of the interstate and just north of Polaris Parkway.
The project was announced more than a year ago and pegged at $65 million; by this time, it was to have been nearly complete. But the cost was lowered as plans for the hotel were altered, including the elimination of a parking garage and a small reduction in meeting space.
"With (Hurricane) Katrina and the increase in construction costs, it just got way whacked," Platinum Ridge principal Peter Coratola said. "This is pretty set in stone now."
Franz Geiger, an NP Limited principal, said two outlots will be developed between the hotel and the parkway. One most likely will be leased to a finedining restaurant operator.
Geiger said NP Limited also will work on improving pedestrian access to Polaris Fashion Place. Glimcher Realty Trust, the mall's owner, plans to tear down the nearby Kaufmann's anchor store and develop an outdoor retail center in its place.
The Hilton is the first fullservice hotel built in central Ohio since the Columbus Hilton opened in 2000 at Easton Town Center. That property has become among the busiest hotels in central Ohio.
Meeting planners in 2008 will be able to choose among several full-service hotels along I-270 stretching from Easton to Dublin, which has two such properties in the Embassy Suites Hotel and the Columbus Marriott Northwest.
"What will make (the Polaris Hilton) project interesting is the competition it's going to bring to Easton and the competition it's going to bring to Dublin," said Joe Marinelli, senior vice president of Experience Columbus.
Copyright (c) 2006, The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio
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