|By Dan Chapman, The Atlanta
Journal-ConstitutionMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Jan. 13, 2009 - News that four hotels would open at I-75 and Delk Road was just the tonic Marietta needed last month as the economy spiraled further and further down.
Millions of dollars of investment. Dozens of construction and hotel jobs. An economic boost to a struggling corridor.
It seemed too good to be true. And, at least for the short term, it was.
Representatives for two of the hotels said last week they were postponing construction until the economy turns. A third awaits financing.
"We have no immediate plans to do anything," said Russell Malayery, with Buckhead Brokers, who cobbled together 1.2 acres for a Comfort Suites. "The market's in the tank right now. Everything's on hold."
Until recently, Beth Sessoms, the city's economic development manager, believed the projects would move forward, pending final resolution of financial and regulatory details. Monday, though, she acknowledged that the recession had claimed at least two new victims.
"We're disappointed that they're not moving forward, but we certainly understand in this economy," Sessoms said. "Nothing is certain until they've signed on the bottom line."
Developers and hoteliers told Marietta officials as recently as last month that these projects, all clustered within a half-mile of each other on the west side of the interstate, were on:
--Comfort Suites. A 1.2-acre site at the intersection of Delk and Franklin roads. Roshan Patel owns the lot, previously home to a Waffle House and a gas station. Malayery didn't know when, or if, Patel would move forward.
--Holiday Inn and Summerfield Suites (though the brand names could change). A 4.2-acre site alongside the interstate. A Holiday Inn at the site burned in January 2006, killing one person and injuring 20 others.
Spokesman Peter Mathon said KPN Hotels is turning the smaller, 50-room building on the property into a hotel. Workers stripped insulation and piping from an adjoining conference center Monday.
Redevelopment of the 120-room hotel, with burn marks and broken windows, is on hold. Representatives of the Diplomat Cos., which bought the property last year, planned to add a restaurant, and office building.
--Sleep Inn. A 1.7-acre site along Delk and Franklin roads. Some apartments on the site must be razed before construction begins. Harry Saidi, an owner and the project manager, plans "a European style" hotel. The owners meet with bankers this week.
"We are working on the financing," Saidi said. "We feel very good. The situation is very difficult for everybody right now. If we get the financing, we'll start (construction) by the end of March or April."
Hotel troubles shouldn't surprise anybody. Commercial construction region-wide is lousy. Business and leisure travel too have dropped off significantly.
Overall, Cobb County took in $10.9 million in hotel-motel taxes last year, up a satisfactory 2.7 percent from the year before. But revenues dipped sharply in the fourth quarter -- down 5.4 percent compared with the same quarter of 2007 -- as the recession gathered speed.
The Delk Road exit is already home to five hotels, of varying quality, on both sides of the interstate. Sessoms said the corridor, like Marietta, would welcome more.
"Families need some moderately priced hotels to stay in. And businesses are cutting back on training so a lot of travelers are staying in more moderately priced hotels as well," she said. "It's a great location."
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