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Church Pastor and a Faith-based Non-profit Corporation Find a Way to Build a $15 million
 Fairfield Inn & Suites and Conference Center in Apex, North Carolina
By Dudley Price, The News & Observer, Raleigh, N.C.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

May 30, 2008 - Apex is getting a $15 million hotel and its first convention center because a local pastor needed a steady source of money to build homes for poor people and a senior citizens center.

The Rev. Charles Tyner lined up a franchise and funding for the 102-room Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott and adjoining conference center. He plans to use profit from the rooms and meeting rentals to pay for charitable projects and create 60 jobs.

"I told him you have to find a way to stop begging," joked Abdul Rasheed, chief executive of N.C. Community Development Initiative, a community development nonprofit that is lending money for the hotel and helped Tyner secure the franchise.

Tyner, pastor of Apex's historic White Oak Baptist Church and CEO of the nonprofit White Oak Foundation, previously borrowed money from the Initiative to buy land in Apex where 25 homes for low-income families are under construction.

But Tyner sought continuous revenue for future While Oak Foundation charitable projects including a soup kitchen, instead of coming back for more loans, Rasheed said.

The men and Everett Wallace, who heads the Initiative's lending division, hooked up with Marriott International. Another nonprofit in Fayetteville was building a hotel, and Wallace introduced Tyner to Marriott executives.

The hospitality chain agreed to sell the White Oak Foundation a Fairfield Inn & Suites franchise at a "significant" discount, said Norman Jenkins, Marriott's senior vice president for North America lodging development.

"It's a pretty unique partnership," said Jenkins, who estimated the hotel and convention center could generate annual profit ranging from several hundred thousand dollars to $1 million. Actual profit will vary according to how debt is structured and room and meeting room rentals, he said.

The N.C. Community Development Initiative will lend up to $1 million for the project. Other lenders include BB&T, which provided $900,000 to buy the eight-acre site on Schieffelin Road near U.S. 1 and N.C. 55, and private investors.

The hotel will be owned by White Oak and the investors and operated by a separate management company. Jobs created will range from managers to housekeepers, Wallace said.

The new inn will face plenty of competition when it's completed in about 12 months. Also near the highways' intersection are an 80-room Days Inn, a 64-room Holiday Inn Express and a 64-room Comfort Inn.

A 121-room Value Place extended-stay motel is under construction, and another company is considering a sixth motel at the intersection, said Dianne Khin, Apex's planning director.

But Marriott's Jenkins and other officials said separate marketing studies by Marriott and a White Oak Foundation consultant showed there should be enough business to go around.

"We were satisfied the market was more than sufficient to accommodate the additional hotel inventory," Jenkins said. "We turn down a lot more projects than we approve, and this one checks out. You've got great visibility from the highway (U.S. 1), and development from Cary is moving this this way. Apex is the next market to be developed."

Advertising for the Fairfield Inn & Suites and 500-seat convention center will be handled by Marriott and the Apex Chamber, Tyner said, adding that the charitable connection won't be mentioned. "This is business," he said.

But local groups including churches, the chamber and Masonic lodge have already expressed interest in renting the center, he said. Tyner did his part to drum up business at Thursday's groundbreaking, exhorting about 75 attendees to rent rooms.

"We've got to keep the hotel full, so I can build more homes for poor people," Tyner said.

dudley.price@newsobserver.com or (919) 829-4525

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Copyright (c) 2008, The News & Observer, Raleigh, N.C.

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