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Developers Ronnie James and Don Culbertson Planning a $25 million
 150 room  Hyatt Place in Downtown Paducah, Kentucky

By Bill Bartleman, The Paducah Sun, Ky.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

May 2, 2008 - Ronnie James said he and Don Culbertson will proceed with plans to build a 150-room seven-story hotel near the Luther F. Carson Four Rivers Center and will announce plans later this month for a second downtown hotel at another location.

James said they met with Mayor Bill Paxton on Thursday and confirmed their plans for the first hotel, which will cost $25 million to $30 million.

James said Paxton continued to urge them not to build the hotel because it might drive away another developer who wants to buy the Executive Inn, tear it down and build a 220-room hotel.

Paxton has favored that $60 million plan by the developer, who has not been publicly identified, because it includes expansion and renovation of the government-owned Julian Carroll Convention Center and the Paducah Expo Center. The developer would receive incentives worth at least $10 million by the city's creating a special taxing district.

City reaction

"I guess it doesn't matter what I say," Mayor Bill Paxton said. "It looks like they are going to do whatever they want."

He declined further comment.

James said he and Culbertson explained to the mayor in their two-hour meeting that they are trying to enhance the downtown and not deter development.

"We have received a great deal of encouragement from people in the community," James said. "We think it is the right thing to do and will help the downtown."

Steve Doolittle, downtown development director, said the announcement is good news for Paducah.

"We are delighted that we have a local developer and a developer from Kansas City who want to make a substantial investment in downtown Paducah," Doolittle said. "But the problem is it isn't a convention center and doesn't take care of the Executive Inn."

James said his plans could help not only the convention business but provide much-needed quality downtown hotel rooms for the river industry, which has several corporate headquarters downtown.

James said his plans could include a convention center in the future, depending on what happens with the Julian Carroll Convention Center and Paducah Expo Center. He also said that this and a second hotel could be coordinated with the public facilities if the city chooses to renovate them.

Hyatt Place

James said plans also were finalized on Thursday with the Hyatt hotel chain to make the hotel a Hyatt Place. The hotel will be designed to Hyatt specifications, he said. Construction should begin in August and be completed by the end of 2009.

According to Hyatt's Web site, Hyatt Place hotels have spacious rooms, 42-inch flat panel televisions that can be connected to laptop computers, wet bars and granite countertops in bathrooms.

James said the first five stories of the hotel will be meeting rooms, a restaurant, rooms and suites. The sixth floor will include eight condominiums, and the seventh floor will include a high-class restaurant and banquet rooms for wedding receptions and other meetings.

James said the condos will be sold and include a private parking garage and elevator.

Other plans

James said Culbertson will return to Paducah in about two weeks and they will announce plans for a second downtown hotel. He would not comment on the location or give other details.

Culbertson last year talked with city officials about building two hotels, one near the performing arts center and one near the Executive Inn, but on the city side of the floodwall at or near the site of the old Lourdes hospital.

James said the plans will not be affected by other developers. "We are committed," he said.

Bhupinder Singh, the owner of the Executive Inn, has joined with three partners who have announced plans for a major renovation of that hotel.

Bill Bartleman can be contacted at 575-8651.

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Copyright (c) 2008, The Paducah Sun, Ky.

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