|By Marla Matzer Rose, The Columbus
Dispatch, OhioMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Apr. 2, 2009 - The five hotels closest to Port Columbus have been put up for sale by their owner, Dublin-based Platinum Ridge Properties, which owes the airport's management group more than half a million dollars in back rent and taxes.
At the same time, Platinum is seeking rent concessions.
The Columbus Regional Airport Authority has hired an auditor to look at Platinum Ridge's books in response to the request for a break on rent, Robin Holderman, vice president of real estate for the authority, told the airport board this week.
The hotels operate with a ground lease from the airport that runs through 2041.
The audit will determine, among other things, whether Platinum Ridge put in the required 4 percent per year in capital improvements on the properties required by the authority. Platinum Ridge is four months behind on its rent, a minimum of $900,000 yearly, and also owes the authority property taxes.
Holderman expressed disappointment that Platinum Ridge did not tell the airport about its plan to sell the hotels. The owner is required to find another "qualified operator" under its agreement with the authority.
The hotels were listed as a package by the Cincinnati office of hotel-brokerage firm Molinaro Koger last month, said broker Terry O'Brien. He said the properties must be sold as a group because of the lease with the airport authority. The properties involved are the Comfort Suites, Baymont Inn & Suites, Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton Inn and Concourse Hotel & Conference Center.
There is no set asking price, as the portfolio is being sold in a "bid situation," he said. He added that his firm has had several preliminary signs of interest, but he said that hotel sales have slowed in recent months in general.
Most hotels for sale likely would be on the market for some time in this climate, said Eric Belfrage, vice president in the Columbus office of commercial real-estate company CB Richard Ellis. "The fall-off in sales has been astronomical," he said.
Representatives of Platinum Ridge did not return calls. The company has struggled in recent years after paying $29.5 million for the five airport hotels in 2005. The seller was Columbus developer Don Kenney.
Platinum Ridge has had other problems. Last year, Fort Rapids Indoor Waterpark on the East Side fell into receivership after the company, faced with multiple liens on the property, tried to sell the hotel after sinking $45 million into it. Platinum Ridge was replaced as a partner last year in the group that developed the Polaris Hilton.
At the airport, Platinum Ridge faces mounting pressure. After a 10-month surge in passengers fueled by Skybus Airlines, hotels around Port Columbus have seen occupancy rates drop.
According to statistics compiled by CB Richard Ellis, occupancy at the hotels averaged between 29 percent for the Baymont and 60 percent for the Hilton Garden Inn and the Hampton Inn in February, down from 58 percent to 86 percent in the same month a year ago.
Platinum Ridge also faces competition from two new hotels set to open this year next to Port Columbus. A Four Points Sheraton is opening on Cassady Avenue, and an Embassy Suites is opening on Airport Drive.
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