|By Abbe Smith, New Haven Register,
Conn.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Dec. 13, 2008 - WEST HAVEN -- As the city celebrates the opening of one new hotel on Sawmill Road, progress on two other previously proposed hotels has stalled and hard economic times might be to blame.
City officials including Mayor John M. Picard attended the grand opening Thursday afternoon of the 100-room Hampton Inn & Suites at 510 Sawmill Road.
The hotel officially opened two years and six months after construction workers broke ground on the $11 million project. Approval for the project was granted in 2004 under former Mayor H. Richard Borer Jr.'s administration.
Two other projects, a Holiday Inn Express slated for Sawmill Road, and a luxury hotel proposed for Allingtown to accommodate the expansion of the University of New Haven, have seemingly vanished.
The Planning and Zoning Commission granted approval for the Holiday Inn Express at a meeting in April, but the developers have not come in for a building permit, according to City Planner Harry Eberhart.
When asked if the developers are backing out of the project, Picard said he has a meeting with the developers in January and he does not believe the plan for the 104-room hotel is dead.
"I still feel that it will happen," he said.
The mayor, however, is not as confident about the six-story upscale hotel previously proposed for Campbell Avenue across from the University of New Haven. Picard confirmed that the Allingtown hotel project has been delayed, though is still a possibility.
Just a year ago the Zoning Board of Appeals granted a variance to allow part of the upscale hotel to sit just 5 feet from the curb, instead of the required 50 feet. The hotel was to have 106 rooms, a restaurant with outdoor dining, a fitness center with an indoor pool and a conference center. In the center of the hotel a grand atrium was to extend to the top of the building.
Developers connected to either hotel project could not be reached for comment Friday.
Picard downplayed the delay or possible withdrawal of plans for the two hotels. Instead he focused on the good economic news of the Hampton Inn's opening and steady progress on discount grocery store Aldi's, which is being built on the other side of Sawmill Road.
"With this economy, the fact that the Hampton Inn has opened, Aldi's should be open in the spring and Star Distributors opened their $14 million expansion, is good news," he said.
Picard said the recession and particularly the credit crisis have greatly impacted the economy locally as well as nationally, and may be behind certain project delays.
But he is confident the city can move forward with economic development plans despite the economic downturn.
"You plan to move forward. You plan to have good projects in place. You plan to lobby. "This is the perfect time to plan," he said.
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