|By Chris Winston, Herald-Journal, Spartanburg, S.C.|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Apr. 28, 2004 - Renaissance Park developer Arthur Cleveland is four months late on a land lease payment to the city of Spartanburg, city officials said Tuesday.
Cleveland, whose 250-room Marriott hotel sits on land owned by the city, missed a $400,000 annual payment in December.
The city, which uses the payment to repay debt, could choose to collect the payment immediately.
"Obviously, with a payment due a public agency, we have an obligation to make arrangements to be paid," said City Manager Mark Scott, who said no action was imminent.
Scott said the city would pay at least $170,000 of the debt "out of pocket" until the money could be collected.
That could be delayed as Cleveland, the driving force behind the Marriott, is a patient at Mary Black Memorial Hospital, where he developed a blood clot in his lung after being treated last week for kidney stones.
Tom Lounds, another developer with Cleveland-White Realtors, said Cleveland was out of the Intensive Care Unit on Tuesday and that his condition was "improving."
He is in a private room at the hospital, Lounds said, but cannot receive visitors.
Ken Anthony, Cleveland's attorney, could not be reached for comment.
It is unclear what impact the missed payment has on the hotel operations, but Marriott officials said this week Brian Czechowski, a 26-year veteran of Marriott, was fired last week as the property's general manager.
Rick Blackburn, area director for sales and marketing for Marriott, would not give a reason for Czechowski's termination.
"Changing (the) management at the hotel was a difficult one for Marriott," Blackburn said.
Czechowski, who could not be reached for comment, was previously general manager of the 550-room Sydney Harbor Marriott in Australia.
He has served as Marriott's international director of operations for Central and Southern Asia as well and director of operations at the 560-room Dallas Quorum in Dallas, Texas.
Blackburn said the area general manager in Charlotte was currently running the property, and he expects to bring in an interim general manager next week.
Director of Sales and Marketing Greg Googer left the Spartanburg Marriott last month. Blackburn is now handling his duties from Charlotte, N.C.
Even though two of the hotel's top managers have left less than six months after hosting its first events, officials said the hotel has been doing a good business with strong traffic from business travelers, weddings, debutante balls and parties.
"I've helped open a lot of hotels," Blackburn said. "And there are a lot of changes that take place."
Blackburn, who would not comment on the hotel's profitability after its first four months, said things were going well.
"We're very happy with the (success) we've had so far," said Blackburn.
"A lot of things are falling into place."
Some of the hotel's features, including the swimming pool and a Starbucks franchise in the lobby, have not opened yet. But Blackburn said the swimming pool should be ready by Memorial Day, and the Starbucks will open this summer.
In the meantime, some of the hotel's staff members have been moved to other areas until those features open.
However, Blackburn said there had been no layoffs at the hotel, which originally hired more than 200 people. He declined to say how many people the hotel now employs.
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(c) 2004, Herald-Journal, Spartanburg, S.C. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News. MAR,