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Long Planned $50 million, 135-room Boutique Hotel for Short North Outside
of Columbus, Ohio Receives Conditional Approvals

By Marla Matzer Rose, The Columbus Dispatch, OhioMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

May 22, 2011--A long-planned Short North boutique-hotel project from the Pizzuti Cos. has taken an important step forward.

The Italian Village Commission last week gave conditional approval to the conceptual plans for the hotel, called the Joseph. That followed a similar thumbs-up from the Victorian Village Commission a few weeks ago.

Final approvals will be sought later this year from the commissions and the city zoning office before Pizzuti can begin construction. If all goes well, the hotel could open in 2013.

The $50 million project is to produce a 135-room hotel on the east side of N. High Street and, across N. High, a building offering about 55,000 square feet of office space, plus retail space on the ground floor and a parking garage. The hotel project is planned for property just north of the Greater Columbus Convention Center.

Pizzuti originally announced plans for the hotel in early 2008. It faced neighborhood concerns about its size and parking issues; then it was shelved for a time as the recession made it unrealistic to move forward.

"We don't typically underwrite 31/2 years of development," said Joel Pizzuti. "To be fair," he said, "if the recession hadn't occurred, it wouldn't have taken this long."

He considers the project as it stands now -- slightly scaled back from what originally was envisioned -- as "better today than when we started."

The plan also preserves the majority of a limestone-faced United Commercial Travelers building that fronts Goodale Park; neighborhood preservationists had wanted it to remain. It will house a collection of art assembled by the Pizzuti family over the years.

Pizzuti said the Joseph, named after his late grandfather, is being designed for a clientele different from that of the publicly financed Hilton Columbus Downtown, which is being built directly across from the convention center. That hotel is expected to open in September 2012.

"We're not going after convention business," Pizzuti said. "We're targeting the individual business traveler, the leisure traveler, people coming to Columbus for work and pleasure."

Pizzuti said he's seen real-estate financing loosen up in 2011 compared with the clamp-down that occurred after the recession hit. He said his company is talking to "a number of capital providers" about financing the Joseph.

Another Downtown boutique hotel, this one across from the Statehouse, remains in the planning stages. Rob Willard of Indiana-based Midas Hospitality said he remains optimistic about striking a deal soon to renovate two historic Broad Street buildings into a Hotel Indigo-branded hotel with the aid of tax credits.

"Hotel financing is difficult in general, (but) Columbus' Downtown is a great hotel market, especially for the size and type of hotel we are building," Willard said.

Matt MacLaren, executive vice president of the Ohio Hotel and Lodging Association, agreed that financing for new hotel projects "remains difficult for the whole state of Ohio."

He, too, is hopeful that there is room for several new hotels Downtown.

"If the marketing is done right, we'll grow the market overall," MacLaren said. "If we're able to grow the number of visitors, even with a few new hotels coming, occupancy overall will go up."

Turkey Hill expands

Kroger's Turkey Hill Minit Markets -- combination gas stations and convenience stores -- are expanding again in central Ohio. In one case, the owners are expanding a store that opened last year.

The Pennsylvania-based chain said a year and a half ago that it would enter the Columbus market with seven locations. Work on the one that opened in July, at E.Broad Street and Nelson Road on the East Side, will add 2,400 square feet to the 4,000-square-foot store.

The company had originally considered building outbuildings that would be occupied by other tenants facing the street, but it found no takers. Instead, officials were pleasantly surprised by the success of the convenience store itself.

Spokeswoman Denise Clark said that because the East Side store has been "well-received by the community," Turkey Hill is adding more fresh food offerings, including rotisserie chicken, meat and produce, plus an expanded selection of frozen foods. She said the company has no plans to expand its other locations, most of which were former On the Run locations that Turkey Hill bought from Gilligan Oil Co. in 2009.

Meanwhile, Turkey Hill plans to begin work on a location at Rt. 23 and Stratford Road in Delaware in the next two weeks, Clark said. Work on that location was held up while Turkey Hill addressed concerns about traffic and the preservation of a historic home and barn adjacent to the site.

The structures will be donated to the Delaware County Historical Society.

Construction Zone appears on the fourth Sunday of the month. Material for the column may be emailed to Dispatch reporter Marla Matzer Rose.

mrose@dispatch.com

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To see more of The Columbus Dispatch, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.columbusdispatch.com.

Copyright (c) 2011, The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. For more information about the content services offered by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services (MCT), visit www.mctinfoservices.com. NYSE:HIL,



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