April 06–Construction on a new Hampton Inn & Suites planned for Erie's bayfront won't start this spring as originally planned.
But work on the eight-story hotel, part of a $150 million bayfront development planned by Erie-based Scott Enterprises, will start by October at the latest, said Nick Scott Sr., president of the family-owned company.
Scott Enterprises, which first announced plans for its Harbor Place development in late 2013, has a strong financial incentive to meet that deadline. Scott said $5 million in state funding rides on meeting that timetable.
Scott acknowledged Wednesday that he had hoped to break ground sooner.
"There are a lot of delays in dealing with the state, phases you have to go through," he said, referring to a $5 million grant from the Pennsylvania Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program.
Meeting state requirements might have slowed the project down a bit on the front end. Members of the Scott family said in November that they expected to break ground this spring. On the other hand, the state's involvement also sets performance requirements that determine when construction has to begin.
"Once you are awarded a grant you have to follow all the rules that are involved in the grant," Scott said. "You are on the hook in terms of when things have to be done and submitted.
"The (deadline) they have for us is October," he continued. "We are saying it's going to start by at least October, maybe September."
As originally outlined, the project would include one or more hotels, a parking garage, residential space, restaurants, office and retail space, an ice-skating rink and a footbridge to carry people from UPMC Hamot over the Bayfront Connector.
A $15 million Hampton Inn & Suites, expected to include about 105 rooms, a third of which will be suites, will be the first step in the development, Scott said.
Although Scott Enterprises is building on a 12-acre footprint, there are a lot of components to the Harbor Place design, and no room to waste on a sprawling hotel.
"We tried to keep it tall to preserve ground space," Scott said.
He said he expects his company, which owns numerous hotels and restaurants as well as Splash Lagoon Indoor Water Park and Peek'n Peak Resort in Findley Lake, New York, will get more for its money than the two publicly financed hotels that have been built on Erie's bayfront. The most recent of those, a Courtyard by Marriott and adjacent parking garage, was completed in 2016 at a combined cost of about $54 million.
"We are still puzzled about how they can spend as much money as they did," Scott said. "They are not getting the (room) rates commensurate with spending that much money. We as a private company can't afford to make those mistakes."
Scott said he expects to see the larger project pick up speed after work starts on the hotel. Subsequent steps are likely to include the parking garage and the office park.
"It's going to snowball," he said. "The interest is picking up and when people see something coming out of the ground they will realize we are continuing to chase the dream."
Jim Martin can be reached at 870-1668 or by email. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/ETNMartin.