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RockBridge Capital Subsidiaries, RB Hotel Development and RB Hospitality
Advisors, to Develop and Manage a 122-room Airport Hotel
at Columbus Regional Airport in Ohio

By Steve Wartenberg, The Columbus Dispatch, OhioMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

July 25, 2012--A $13 million hotel will rise next to Port Columbus, taking the place of the Concourse Hotel, which will soon be demolished.

Plans were approved yesterday for entering into a $415,000 contract with RB Hotel Development and RB Hospitality Advisors, subsidiaries of Columbus-based RockBridge Capital, to help design, construct and manage the hotel.

Despite an uneven track record for airport hotels, officials think this new hotel will be successful.

"We will have the newest property, closest to the terminal and a new (brand) that will be well-positioned in the market," said Robin Holderman, chief asset and development officer for the Columbus Regional Airport Authority, which approved the contract.

The hotel will cost $12.5 million to $13.5 million to construct and have 122 rooms and 120 parking spaces, said Todd Walter, managing director of RockBridge, during a presentation to the board.It could open in the spring of 2014, he said.

The occupancy rate at airport-area hotels, which dropped from 71 percent to 54 percent during the recession, has inched its way back up to 65 percent and should continue to rise, making the new hotel viable, Walter said.

The new hotel will be a select-service property, which means it will not have a full-service restaurant or meeting rooms, unlike the Concourse. It will have a breakfast bar, business center and fitness center.

"A full-service hotel is more expensive to build and more of a risk to operate," Holderman said.

In recent years, the airport's five hotels have all struggled and gone into receivership.

The Concourse was sold to the airport authority for $1 million in December. The Baymont Inn is now owned by Delaware County Bank and has been rebranded as an America's Best Value Inn. The Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton Inn and Comfort Suites hotels are all in receivership and overseen by New Perspective Services.

Shawn Parker of New Perspective said the three hotels he oversees are

owned by mortgage holder GE Capital and remain open.

"GE Capital spent about $600,000 to get them back into compliance with the brand standards of their flags, and we've turned it into a positive cash flow at all three," he said.

The goal is to sell all three together, for a sum in excess of $15 million, "but we are entertaining the thought of selling them individually," Parker said.

Holderman thinks the time is right for a new hotel at the airport.

"The other hotels went through a perfect storm in terms of the amount of leverage they had, the recession and corresponding economic impact, and these factors rolled together is why they didn't work," Holderman said.

"Our situation is a lot different than theirs."



(c)2012 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)

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