|By Katie Byard, The Akron Beacon Journal,
OhioMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
April 15, 2011--There's a hole in the ground -- and nothing else -- where developer Joel Testa last summer said he planned to build a downtown hotel.
He had hoped to break ground this past winter.
But Testa says plans for the 10-story Northside Courtyard by Marriott are on track and he now plans to break ground this summer.
Testa said designing the hotel took longer than expected.
"We're trying to push the envelope of a typical suburban Courtyard and create a more metropolitan boutique loft feeling," he said.
The place -- including a fitness center and a small, private theater -- would be built facing Furnace Street. It would go between Testa's 10-story Northside Lofts condominium project and the red brick building at 43 Furnace that calls itself "the place where artists work."
The groundbreaking couldn't come soon enough for city officials.
David Lieberth, the city's deputy mayor of administration, said, "We are desperate to have hotel rooms in downtown Akron to serve our convention business."
He and Gregg Mervis, vice president and chief operating officer of the Akron/Summit Convention and Visitors Bureau, said convention planners have moved events from Akron because of the lack of rooms.
They cited the Ohio State Bar Association as an example.
The Marriott would be the first hotel in downtown Akron since the Hilton Inn opened at Quaker Square in 1980.
That was nine years after the old Cascade Holiday Inn -- now the Akron City Centre Hotel -- opened downtown in 1971.
David Brennan, the Akron businessman who owns City Centre, formerly a Radisson franchise, has said there isn't enough business downtown to support another hotel.
He noted the Marriott would be new and the only "flagged" hotel downtown -- part of a national chain.
"Being a current, modern hotel will be attractive to a lot of the working professionals," he said.
He touted the hotel's location -- at Northside and near a stop on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad line, as well as the Ohio & Erie Towpath Trail.
He's also planning a second restaurant for his Northside Lofts. It would join the VegiTerranean restaurant.
Testa said that despite the economic downturn, about 75 percent of the condominiums in the 36-loft complex have been sold.
Katie Byard can be reached at 330-996-3781 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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