|By Brian Peach, The Paducah Sun,
Ky.McClatchy-Tribune Business News
July 8, 2006 - --By the end of next year, J.R.'s Executive Inn
won't exist. Sure, the structure will remain, but major changes are in
store -- changes that will cost new owner Bhupinder Singh between $10
million and $18 million and that he expects will turn the hotel into a
four-star destination. That's on top of the $5.7 million he spent to
buy the massive building along the Ohio River. The sale contract has
been signed by outgoing owner Yvonne Holsapple and Singh, who has been
in Paducah for about 10 days.
Hotel employees are already cleaning heavily, and Singh
expects major changes in the next several months: Internet access in
every room, new restaurants, and a business center where people can
fax, compose letters or seek advice will soon be available. Also on the
way: a new name, though he's not ready to unveil that just yet.
"It will not be closed," Singh said of the hotel. Renovations
"will be done on a wing-to-wing basis." "We want to give it a look
where people are dying to come back." That will including reworking the
roads surrounding the Executive Inn to make it more accessible, a
project the city will have a hand in. Additional employees will
probably be added by the time the renovations are completed within the
next 10 to 18 months, he said, and none will be fired as a result of
Singh, who appeared at Friday's news conference with his wife,
Daljeet, said the hotel was initially low on the list of possible
purchases by his family-owned company, Imperial Hotels and Investments
LLC of Riverside, Calif. His company dabbles in all sort of
investments, including recent purchases of hotels in Arkansas, he said.
Singh said the Executive Inn, after much research, was found
to be "a diamond in hiding." "Hopefully, we'll be able to bring a lot
of businesses here," Singh said. "We do realize that as the hotel
stands today, bringing in the business class might be a problem." Singh
said he was returning to California but would be coming back to Paducah
after a week.
The rumor mill churned heavily on Thursday after many city
leaders and business people attended a Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce
breakfast. However, among those left to wonder whether the rumors were
true were Mayor Bill Paxton, City Manager Jim Zumwalt and chamber
President Elaine Spalding, none of whom had received an official word
of the sale. Both Holsapple and hotel sales director Linda Peters were
tight-lipped about whether any transactions had been made. "It's a
fragile situation," Peters said on Thursday, noting that employees had
been told they would lose their jobs if they spoke about what they were
told in private.
The sale -- which Singh said will be final in a few months --
culminates years of trying to find new ownership willing to invest
heavily to renovate the hotel. "If he was serious about fixing up the
hotel, the city and county will jump through hoops to help," Paxton
"That's why we have been so reluctant to talk about this in
the past." A year ago, a hopeful Paxton said on public access Channel
11 TV that a deal involving the hotel's sale was imminent, but he later
retracted those comments, saying no contract had been signed.
Then, on May 3, he said city and county officials were talking
with investors who would give the hotel "the Holiday Inn flag." That
deal didn't pan out, either. In fact, no deal with the city or county
resulted in the sale. Paxton admittedly didn't know about the sale
until Friday, and he didn't meet Singh until about an hour before
Friday's 4 p.m. press conference. After hearing the rumors on
Thursday, the mayor was worried about being kept in the dark,
particularly because the city and county had offered to give incentives
and assistance to an investor willing to fix up the hotel. "I guess I
found it a little bit strange," Paxton said in his office Thursday. "I
can't believe somebody would purchase it without seeing if the city
intends to give incentives." The mayor added that the city would be
cautious about whom it gave incentives to. But after meeting Singh on
Friday, Paxton said financial incentives could still be made available.
A new offer Paxton made was that the city and county will each
spend $500,000 to improve the Julian Carroll Convention Center to the
same level as the hotel, if it's repaired as promised. County
Administrator Steve Doolittle was among the people attending the news
conference, but did not participate. The city and county own the
convention center and Paducah Expo Center, which are connected to the
Executive Inn. The properties were leased to Holsapple through the
local convention center board. "I really look forward to working with
them," said Holsapple, who missed the press conference because she was
tending to her mother, who underwent surgery Thursday. "They are very,
very fine people," she said of the Singhs.
Paducah/McCracken County Convention & Visitors Bureau Executive Director Mary Hammond told Singh the hotel has "really been the missing link in the community." "Give us a good product, and we can sell it," she told him.
Copyright (c) 2006, The Paducah Sun, Ky.
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