|By Gary T. Pakulski, The Blade, Toledo, Ohio|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Aug. 6, 2004 - A long-time Southwyck-area hotel used by Ohio Turnpike travelers has been bought by a local church which will continue to rent rooms while also using the facility for worship and to provide services to the under-privileged.
Signs with a new name, Dreamplex Hotel and Conference Center, have gone up at the former Quality Hotel and Econo Lodge on Reynolds Road.
A company formed by First Church of God, 3016 Collingwood Blvd., bought the property from Darrell Ducat for $2.8 million last week, according to Lucas County records.
The Rev. Robert Culp, pastor, said he believes the property is the first full-service hotel in the nation operated by an African-American congregation.
Additionally, Mr. Culp claimed it is the only hotel in Ohio that is majority-owned by African Americans.
The congregation plans to invest $2 million to upgrade the 280-room complex located on 12 acres along the east side of Reynolds Road, just north of Heatherdowns Boulevard.
That doesn't include plans to construct a new church and education center on vacant space east of the hotel and to build condominiums there or in converted guest rooms.
About 200 rooms will be reserved for paying guests while the remaining 80 will be used for services the church plans to operate, including housing for students who will receive on-the-job-training in hospitality management, a program to help people start their own businesses, day care for children, and services for teen mothers.
"It's a vision our pastor has to expand the church's ministry," explained C. Allen McConnell, senior elder who oversees administration of the congregation. Mr. McConnell is a judge in Toledo Municipal Court.
The church will begin holding one of two Sunday services in converted banquet rooms after Jan. 1, Mr. Culp said.
While the congregation will eventually move to the site, its historic house of worship in Toledo's Old West End on Collingwood at Central Avenue will continue to be used as a base from which to offer services to neighborhood residents, Mr. Culp said.
Plans are to complete changes at the hotel site by 2009, he added.
Although the previous owners struggled with low occupancy in the motel-clogged area near a turnpike interchange, Mr. Culp said the planned improvements will help keep the property full.
The 162,000-square-foot building was a Holiday Inn until 1995 when it joined the Ramada Inn chain. It became a combination Quality Hotel and Econo Lodge after its purchase in 1999 for $4.3 million by an investment group led by Mr. Ducat
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