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Hotel Developer Rick Patel Planning a 140-room Crowne Plaza in a
 Former Dillard's Department Store in Columbia, South Carolina

By Jim Duplessis, The State, Columbia, S.C.McClatchy-Tribune Business News

Jan. 24, 2007 - Columbia hotel developer Rick Patel plans to open a 140-room Crowne Plaza hotel in the former Dillard's department store at Midtown at Forest Acres by the end of 2008.

Patel said Tuesday he had signed a franchise agreement with Intercontinental Hotels Group, which owns the Crowne Plaza brand, and he plans to begin construction later this year.

The 33-year-old chief executive of his family's Sejwad Hotels would not say how much he will invest in the project.

However, recent Crowne Plaza hotels in other states have cost about $10 million, and Patel has spent $12 million to $15 million each on a spate of new and refurbished hotels he is building in the Columbia area.

The Crowne Plaza will fill one of the vacancies created by retailers that have left the shopping center, known until 2005 as Richland Mall. Dillard's had occupied 185,000 square feet at the corner of the shopping center before closing in 2003.

Peerless Development Group, based in Spruce Pine, N.C., is the majority owner of the mall.

In 2005, Peerless announced plans for a $300 million mixed-use redevelopment of the mall that would be completed by 2012. It included condos, a Main Street setting with stores and businesses that have outside entrances, as well as a retirement community and other housing options.

Forest Acres officials learned four months ago about pending talks with Crowne Plaza, said city administrator Mark Williams.

Williams said the hotel will fit well with the mall's overall redevelopment.

"They had told us that their market research indicated there was a need for a midtown hotel like that," Williams said.

The Crowne Plaza hotel would be the first new major retail partner for Midtown at Forest Acres since redevelopment began.

Patel has a long relationship with Crowne Plaza's parent, Intercontinental Hotels, because he owns and is building Holiday Inns, one of the British company's main brands.

Crowne Plaza has 258 hotels in more than 40 countries, but only three in the Carolinas: one each in Greenville, Hilton Head, and Asheville, N.C.

Investors plan to open a 193-room Crowne Plaza in Charlotte by midyear and a 190-room hotel in Greensboro by this fall.

Intercontinental Hotels describes Crowne Plaza as "an upscale brand in major gateway cities, offering business travelers high levels of comfort, service and amenities."

If you were booking Crowne Plaza room for tonight, it would cost $153 to $180 in Greenville and $129 to $199 at Hilton Head.

Marketing for Columbia's Crowne Plaza hotel is expected to include discount room contracts to businesses with employees traveling to Columbia regularly, said Kimberly Melton, the mall's marketing director.

Peerless still hopes to build condominiums in a separate building adjacent to Dillard's to be called the Village Green Condominiums, but neither the number of units nor the date construction would begin has been decided, she said.

Staff writer Joy Woodson contributed to this article. Reach DuPlessis at (803) 771-8305.

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Copyright (c) 2007, The State, Columbia, S.C.

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