|By Kristy Eppley Rupon, The State
(Columbia, S.C.)McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Sept. 27, 2012--A new extended-stay hotel finally is under construction in Irmo, five years after developer Clancy Cipkala first spotted the site on Lake Murray Boulevard.
The Residence Inn by Marriott will be the first hotel in Irmo's town limits and the first that veteran hotelier Cipkala has built in his hometown.
Getting to Wednesday's groundbreaking for the $10 million project was tough in an economic climate that has flattened many in the hotel industry, said Cipkala, managing partner of developer South Side Partners.
As Cipkala began to put the deal together in late 2009 -- as the country just was starting to pull out of the Great Recession -- "people were telling me I was crazy. I started to believe (them)," he said. "But I was planning two to three years out, betting the economy would get better."
Piecing together four separate parcels of land on the spot near the I-26 intersection kept Cipkala busy for nearly two years negotiating with property owners. But he knew that getting a loan was going to be his biggest challenge.
Financing for hotels evaporated during the recent recession.
One hotel brand that Cipkala has worked with built 150 hotels in 2007 but only six so far in 2012, he said. "It went to zip."
Cipkala worked with a commercial loan broker who specialized in finding hotel loans and, after another nearly two years, received funding from a Virginia bank.
Landing a big-name hotel franchise helped the loan come faster than it otherwise might have, Cipkala said. The Marriott franchise for the area came open when a nearby hotel was de-franchised, he said.
Cipkala's new 100-room hotel is slated to open in May. It will target travelers looking for a place to stay for five days or longer.
With the hotel located a 15-minute drive from downtown Columbia and Lexington, and only three miles from the Lake Murray dam, Cipkala expects to draw government contractors, corporate relocation clients and bass fishers.
He also expects the hotel will be popular with medical professionals visiting the new 76-bed Palmetto Health Baptist Parkridge hospital, under construction on the other side of the interstate, and retail professionals in town to help with store renovations or construction in the adjacent Harbison shopping corridor.
Hotels in the area, mainly on Columbiana Circle, stay near capacity on the weekends, said Tiffany Boyce, president and chief executive of the Greater Irmo Chamber of Commerce, adding it is great to have another option for visitors to the bustling area.
The Irmo area also draws a number of visitors because of youth sports tournaments, she said. "We have a lot to offer in Irmo with great restaurants and great things to do. It's all right there."
The Residence Inn will offer studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom suites with fully equipped kitchens, including coffee makers, microwaves and full-size appliances, as well as free high-speed Internet access. Rates will range from about $99 to $139 a night, depending on the number of nights that visitors stay, Cipkala said.
The hotel also will offer daily housekeeping, complimentary grocery-shopping services, same-day dry cleaning and a free hot breakfast daily. Other features include an outdoor swimming pool, a fitness center, a putting green, a meeting room and a weeknight social hour.
The hotel will create more than 200 temporary jobs during construction and about 40 to 50 full-time and part-time jobs once it is operating, Cipkala said.
The 3.25-acre site also has room for an outparcel that Cipkala hopes to lease to a restaurant or retail outlet.
"It's a great opportunity for a new business to move into our area," Boyce said. "With all the activity going on in the Irmo area, I think it will just add more value."
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