May 21– May 21–NORTH PORT — Construction is imminent on the first new hotel in the city of North Port since 1973, as Michigan-based Lodgco Hospitality hosted a ceremonial groundbreaking on a new 100-room Hampton Inn and Suites on Tuscola Boulevard, just west of Sumter Boulevard.
“North Port is somewhere we’ve had on our radar for roughly three years now,” Mike Postle, vice president of construction and project management for Lodgeco said. “We’re excited to bring the first major flag to the city of North Port.
“North Port couldn’t have been better to us in this process,” he added.
Lodgco will build a four-story, 100-room hotel with 1,200 square feet of meeting space, an outdoor pool, indoor bar and fitness room.
General contractor Stellar Development is scheduled to begin construction next week. Once construction starts in earnest, the estimated build time is 13 months.
Once it opens, the Hampton Inn & Suites will be the first new hotel in the city since the motel at 14000 Tamiami Trail, which is currently flagged as an America’s Best Value Inn.
North Port Mayor Chris Hanks acknowledged that 46-year gap when he officially welcomed Hampton Inn to the city.
“With a population of over 70,000 residents, I assure you that the city of North Port have plenty of friends and family who might want to visit and will need a beautiful place to stay,” Hanks said. “And make no doubt, this Hampton Inn is going to be good looking.”
He went on again to thank Lodgco, a family-owned hospitality chain that decided to build in North Port, even though traditional economic formulas call for more homes in the area.
“They saw in us the very thing that we’ve been enjoying and boasting about for years,” Hanks said.
But Postle and Lodgco CEO Ann Kelly, who could not attend the Monday ceremony, decided it made sense to enter the North Port market.
The North Port hotel, which is a new prototype for Hilton, will be the fourth Lodgco property in the area, including a Home2 Suites in Nokomis and Hyatt Place hotels in Lakewood Ranch and near Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport.
The city of North Port, which has long pursued a hotel chain, took extra steps to be accommodating to the hotelier, including waiving design standards that called for Mediterranean design for properties along U.S. 41 — notably elimination of barrel tile roofing — as well as an exemption from installation of windows that open and close, and cobbling on faux balconies.
Had city officials insisted on those changes, they either wouldn’t have passed muster with Hilton’s design standards or would’ve increased the costs too much for the project to make sense to investors.
Sensitive to the tight budget, city officials crafted an ordinance to allow Lodgco to defer paying city impact fees for up to two years.
Postle said the city’s decision to defer fees was a major key for the project’s viability.
“It’s not just the fact that they gave us this deferment,” Postle said. “It shows a lot of faith from them, that they want to work with us. It certainly was a deciding factor.”
During his presentation, Postle stressed how Stellar Development — which also will work with Lodgco on a project in the Orlando area — took extra effort to keep projected costs in line.
“Stellar has been absolutely phenomenal at making sure those numbers come in where we need them to, and if not, figuring out a way to get them there,” Postle said.
Maurice Opstal, president of Stellar Development, used his time at the podium to thank city officials for welcoming the project.
“It’s refreshing to see a city/municipality that welcomes growth and welcomes a project like this,” he said. “I think Hilton is a great flat to bring to this community, so we’re very excited.”
North Port also owes the decision by Lodgco to come to the city to the Atlanta Braves’ decision to build its $140 million spring training and Florida operations complex in south Sarasota County.
North Port Economic Development Manager Mel Thomas said that, just like the Braves’ stadium, the new hotel will be a game-changer for the city.
“This is joyous,” Thomas said. “This is evidence that a lot of people have worked very, very hard to bring this to North Port.
“Just like the Braves, in their own way, this will mean a whole lot of change for the area,” she added. “We’re excited because this is another turn of events that will show progress.”