|By Sarah Shemkus, Cape Cod Times,
Hyannis, Mass.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Nov. 8, 2007 - WEST YARMOUTH -- A group of hotel developers have completed the purchase of the Americana Holiday Motel and Suites, becoming the first to take advantage of new zoning initiatives intended to revitalize the Route 28 corridor.
Fred Darling and his grandsons Eric Snow and David Darling said that they plan to raze the existing structures -- which include aging lodging buildings, a pool house and a coffee shop -- and replace them with what will be the Cape's first new hotel in 20 years.
The new facility is to be part of a national hotel chain that David Darling declined to name until the deal is finalized.
The Darlings and Snow, who together own and operate three hotels in Seekonk, closed the $3.5 million deal for the 4.5 acre Americana property last week.
They quickly began removing old furniture and fixtures from the existing hotel's 136 rooms to prepare the buildings for demolition, which they expect to begin within a week.
The redevelopment plans were made possible by key changes to zoning regulations at the town and county levels.
In 2005, Yarmouth voters agreed to a new bylaw that targeted 35 hotel and motel properties for redevelopment.
The Cape Cod Commission then created a growth incentive zone, which was formalized in early October. The zone is a specified area in which developers can bypass review by the commission and instead deal immediately with town planning regulators.
"There are times when you need to relax your regulations a little bit because it makes sense," said Suzanne McAuliffe, chairwoman of the Yarmouth Board of Selectmen.
The sale of the Americana was a direct result of these changes and the new hotel will be the first project completed under the new rules, said Chuck Carey of Hyannis-based Carey Commercial Inc., the real estate agent who brokered the deal.
"It works," Carey said. "They put it into effect and, bang, a property sold."
The buyers had been looking for at least five years for a property that would allow them to add a Cape Cod establishment to the Ramada, Hampton Inn and Town and Country hotels they own in Seekonk.
The Cape Cod Commission, however, posed regulatory hurdles that made it difficult to find a feasible location for the hotel developers, who do business under the name FED Hotel Properties.
"Projects like this have been trying to happen for years, but there's just been too much bureaucratic opposition," Carey said.
Because Hyannis has a similar growth incentive zone, the buyers were considering opportunities there until Carey alerted them to the pending changes in Yarmouth's zoning.
"He nonchalantly said this change was coming and that was just what I was looking for," said Fred Darling, standing in the parking lot of the Americana yesterday.
The regulatory changes will create a more efficient permitting process, said McAuliffe, which will allow developers to complete projects more quickly and more cost-effectively.
"They get to put their money and their time into the property itself," she said.
David Darling predicted that the new hotel will open in the spring of 2009.
The new hotel's modern amenities -- an indoor-outdoor pool, spacious rooms and meeting facilities are part of the design -- should give it an advantage over the outdated competitors that line Route 28, said David Darling.
"We should be able to draw away from some of the hotels in Hyannis, too," he added.
The draw of the new hotel, however, could also help boost the business of the surrounding lodging establishments as well.
The sale of the Americana, said McAuliffe, is the first sign that the growth incentive zone will be attractive to buyers looking to redevelop hotels into facilities that will be more attractive to today's travelers.
"Yarmouth is a traditional tourist destination," she said. "This allows it to continue that tradition in a way that is more modern."
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Copyright (c) 2007, Cape Cod Times, Hyannis, Mass.
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