|By Julie Breaux, Odessa American, Texas|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Apr. 29, 2004 - Odessa businessman John Bushman is buying another piece of property he considers too valuable a community asset to let decline and disappear.
Bushman, chairman and chief executive of ICA Properties, did the same thing with Permian Mall, now Music City Mall, the CBS affiliate KOSA-TV, and the Radisson Hotel, now the MCM Elegante.
This time, Bushman has his sights set on the Holiday Inn.
Bushman on Tuesday confirmed he is close to completing the purchase of the Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites, 6201 E. Highway 80, from Dallas-based Felcor.
At the same time, Felcor has sold the Holiday Express to Midland businessman Tika Cheema.
Bushman said he is buying the 245-room Holiday Inn because he didn't want to see it sold to another out-of-town investment group with no roots in Odessa.
"We just felt it's basically the Odessa convention center," Bushman said.
Felcor has owned the Holiday Inn for about eight years. In that time, the company has "let it go down quite a bit," Bushman said, because it's only interested in large markets.
"But, we're Odessa people, and we can take it and hopefully make it more viable as an Odessa convention center," Bushman said. "The investment will hopefully grow over time. That's the way the mall was when we bought it.
That's the way the TV station was when we bought it, and that's the way the Radisson was when we bought it." Bushman will drop the Holiday Inn franchise and rename the hotel a name hasn't been chosen yet.
He will refurbish all 209 rooms and 36 suites, renovate the interior fun dome and refresh the building's fašade to make it a hotel "all of Odessa will be proud of." Renovations should be complete in six to nine months, he said.
Room rates will be lower than at Bushman's four-star MCM Elegante, the eight-story high rise he purchased in 2001 from a Minnesota-based investment group.
"It will fit our people's pocketbook," Bushman said. "And it'll be the second-best hotel in Odessa." A few blocks to the west, Cheema's corporation, Loop 635 LLC, has purchased the Holiday Inn Express from Felcor for an undisclosed amount.
Cheema said the sale was completed about three days ago.
Like Bushman, Cheema has big plans for the property.
He said he will invest about $500,000 in renovations, after which the hotel will become a Quality Inn & Suites. Cheema, president of Loop 635 LLC, said he expects the renovations and name change to be completed within the next two to three months.
Cheema, who owns the Best Western Atrium Inn in Midland, said he will put new beds, furniture and carpet in the hotel's approximately 80 rooms.
The hotel's front-desk clerk Christina Campos said Cheema plans to reintroduce rooms with entrances accessible from the parking lot, as was the case when the hotel first opened decades ago as a Holiday Inn.
"The Express had no outside rooms," Campos said. "He's going to make us really busy." Room rates will run about $59 a night, Cheema said.
Cheema, who's been buying and selling hotels for the past decade, said he knows how to run a profitable hotel.
"You keep your expenses in control plus maintain the property," he said.
"You've got to put money back in the property or else you lose your customers. It's very simple. Otherwise, new properties come on the market and crush you down." Cheema said he wasn't concerned about competing with Bushman.
"Let him give me a run for my money," Cheema said. "He may put more money into the property and may go for the high-end-market while I'm going for the mid-market. Like when you go wrestling, you don't wrestle a 400-pound guy if you're a 200-pound guy. I think I can handle it."
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(c) 2004, Odessa American, Texas. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News. IHG,