|By Kyle Jarvis, The Keene Sentinel,
N.H.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Sept. 29, 2012--A Nashua-based management company that already manages two hotels in downtown Keene has purchased another on Key Road.
Colwen Hotel Management, Inc. announced this week that it recently purchased the Holiday Inn Express, and has been managing the facility for the past three months.
"We're very pleased with the acquisition," said Alex J. F. Bates, area general manager for Colwen. "We think Keene's a great town and market for us, and having three hotels, we can cater to a broader market now."
Colwen stepped in when the previous owners of the Holiday Inn Express, a franchise, decided to sell, Bates said.
Colwen also manages the Lane Hotel on Main Street and the Courtyard by Marriott on Railroad Street.
Colwen plans to make significant renovations to the Holiday Inn Express, an 80-room hotel with a pool and fitness center, Bates said.
"We're expanding the lobby area, and plan to increase the size of the fitness center and add some equipment," he said.
That work is slated for this winter, with a "minimal interruption to guests," Bates said.
Colwen also owns another parcel on Key Road that was to be a four-story, 100-room La Quinta hotel. But the previous owner, Guru Nanak, LLC, allowed the partially finished structure to fall into disrepair.
The company's president, Gurdeep Nagra, was convicted of employing illegal immigrants at a hotel in Brattleboro owned by the firm, and conspiring to make false statements regarding a bank loan.
In December 2010, city officials filed a motion to have the unfinished structure torn down, saying it was abandoned and had become a safety hazard because parts of the structure had been compromised after being exposed to the elements over several months.
That motion was withdrawn after the city struck a deal with Keene Key, LLC, whose partners are affiliated with Colwen, and all that remains of the building now is its skeleton.
"There's still definitely an opportunity for another hotel there, and we're working with the city to come up with something that would be advantageous to both parties," Bates said. "I would say towards the end of next year we'll be involved in the planning process at that point."
Bates said adding the Holiday Inn Express to Colwen's portfolio "opens up other opportunities at that other Key Road site now as well."
Managing three hotels in Keene that could compete against one another isn't a concern for Colwen, Bates said.
"Each brand kind of caters to a different market, so we see it as more of a positive than a negative," he said. "They're also brands that have guests that are very brand-loyal."
While some may question whether Keene needs as many hotels as it has, with the possibility of another on the way, Mayor Kendall W. Lane sees it as a positive trend.
"The way to keep taxes down is to expand the tax base," he said. "So to see a company that is really reliant upon the expansion of business in the interest of people coming into the community to occupy hotel rooms, it speaks very highly of the community, and ultimately that's the way we're going to control the tax rate."
Lane pointed to the success of Keene's other hotels as evidence there's strong support for the industry locally.
"The fact that people are willing to come into town and continue to invest would indicate the city is growing, and the economy is growing," he said. "And that it's an economically viable area with a strong future."
Kyle Jarvis can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1433, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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