|By David McGee, Bristol Herald Courier,
Va.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Feb. 13, 2013--BRISTOL, Va. -- A new Hilton Garden hotel at The Village at Exit 7 is essential to further development of that hilltop property, city leaders said.
On Tuesday morning, Bristol Hotels Inc., signed an agreement to build a $9 million, five-story hotel on land adjacent to the Cracker Barrel Old Country Store. The signing occurred at the conclusion of a called meeting with the City Council and the Industrial Development Authority.
In exchange, the city agreed to divert $380,000 back to the hotel operators from usage taxes after the facility opens. That amount offsets the company's investment in the property, which it made last April, according to city documents.
"This is something the city has wanted for a long time," Councilman Ed Harlow said. "It's important that it's on that side of Interstate 81. The city has just about got the other side complete and this truly complements the businesses we already have in place. It will really complement Cracker Barrel and Cheddar's."
A variety of city leaders have worked for about a decade to promote development on the south side of Interstate 81, especially The Village, and a high-profile hotel has long been atop their wish list.
"The way the city is growing and the Exit 7 area, we feel it's good opportunity to have a hotel here with the Hilton flag," said Prakash Patel of Bristol Hotels Inc. "The location is great, the visibility is great and there are restaurants and other businesses such as Alpha Natural [Resources] already located in close proximity. This is going to be a very good location for a hotel."
Patel and a partner currently operate about 10 hotels in Virginia and North Carolina.
The new hotel will include a restaurant, lounge and 3,500-square-foot banquet facility that can accommodate parties up to 250 people, Patel said. Other amenities include an indoor pool and business center. It is expected to be about 80,000 square feet and create about 40 full- and part-time jobs.
"I think it's very important with all of the other things going on in the city," Mayor Jim Steele said of the hotel announcement. "We're looking for new businesses to go in and hire more people at the small businesses we already have. With construction of Exit 74 and Exit 5 and in Washington County (Va.), people will be looking for places to stay."
The mayor was referring to the city's The Falls commercial center planned near Interstate 81's Exit 5 and The Pinnacle commercial development planned near Exit 74 in Bristol, Tenn.
About seven acres remain available on the hilltop Village site, said Andrew Trivette, the city's director of community and economic development.
"With the addition of the hotel, I think additional restaurants would be interested in pads on the top of the hill because it just makes sense," Trivette said, adding that development could also include office space.
Expanding development at The Village and nearby sites remains a priority, Trivette said.
"When I started doing economic development, one of my charges was to try and focus development efforts on that side of the interstate because of its history. And we've had great success," Trivette said. "It just took people being educated on what the impact can be to have a store on that site. The addition of Cheddar's at the base of the hill makes it easier for the people at the top of the hill to see their customers making that turn into the development. I think with the addition of each new store it gets easier."
Site work for the hotel is expected to begin in April and construction should begin this summer, Patel said. The hotel is expected to open in late summer 2014.
(c)2013 the Bristol Herald Courier (Bristol, Va.)
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