Candlewood Suites to be completed

83-room property has suffered a series of problems since 2008 conception

tadams@ledger-enquirer.comFebruary 23, 2014 

It has sat idle in mid-construction for months, with traffic streaming by on Whittlesey Boulevard, and begging the question: Will this hotel ever get built?

The answer, it appears, is yes.

Work on the 83-room Candlewood Suites at Columbus Park Crossing, adjacent to the Kia Autosport dealership, should resume within a month, said Anil Patel, an Atlanta-based hotelier who operates under the company name Jina Inc.

"We'll begin working on it and hopefully we are going to finish it within maybe five months or so," said Patel, which would place the opening of the property around August or September.

Candlewood Suites is a brand founded in the mid-1990s and now majority owned by InterContinental Hotels Group. IHG is a British firm that operates a variety of brands, including Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Staybridge Suites, Crowne Plaza and Hotel Indigo.

The future Candlewood Suites on Whittlesey Boulevard has been in the works since 2008, when Patel started going through the process of getting approval to build it and lining up financing.

But a series of problems have dogged the project much of the way, Patel said, including changes in the American Disabilities Act causing a delay in the project and its design.

"So we had to redo everything," he said.

However, construction on the $6.5 million property did finally begin in early 2012 and work by CAM Builders was proceeding until more issues surfaced.

The hotel owner said his bank "backed out" of the loan, forcing him to look elsewhere for financing, which he said was achieved through a U.S. Small Business Administration loan, a process itself that wasn't easy.

Aside from plenty of paperwork, there have been property surveys and appraisals to be completed.

"It took a long time to get approved, because SBA is getting every single detail. They are very picky," Patel said. "They will check every franchise agreement line by line."

On top of everything else, the newer design included changes required by Candlewood Suites, which is using a newer prototype for its hotels, he said.

But Patel said everything is now set

to begin again on the property, right down to the beds, desks and chairs that will be needed to make guests comfortable during their stays.

"Most of the furniture is coming from China," he said. "We have to go through the franchise vendor."

If all goes according to schedule, the Candlewood Suites at Columbus Park Crossing will make its debut not long before a new 860-room hotel opens at Fort Benning. That property will cater primarily to soldiers training on the post or those relocating to and from here -- "permanent change of station" in military parlance -- and needing a place to stay temporarily.

Patel said he is aware of the on-post hotel, but he didn't appear to have formed an opinion on its impact to his Candlewood Suites or the market in general. He is a minority partner in the Staybridge Suites and Hyatt Place hotels in Columbus.

The Columbus and Phenix City market now has about 5,300 hotel rooms combined. Nearly 4,800 of those are in Columbus, according to the Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The city has absorbed many new properties and brands in recent years. Aside from Home2 Suites, Candlewood Suites, Staybridge Suites and Hyatt Place, others include Homewood Suites, Hilton Garden Inn, SpringHill Suites, Residence Inn, Holiday Inn Express & Suites, Wyndham Garden, Doubletree, Home-Towne Suites, TownePlace Suites, Fairfield Inn & Suites, Suburban Extended Stay, Value Place and Extended Stay America.

Local hotel operators have expressed concern that the new Fort Benning lodging will cut sharply into their business when it opens in early 2015. The post hotel, to be dubbed Abrams Hall, will be turned over to a private company called Real Easy within a year and take on a private brand, or flag. That likely will be either Holiday Inn Express or Candlewood Suites.

CVB President and Chief Executive Officer Peter Bowden has said his staff is "aggressively" marketing the city to individual visitors and groups, ranging from military reunions and organizational meetings to those simply seeking a place to have fun and experience the area's culture. The Chattahoochee River whitewater course and the planned zip-line across the river is part of that, he said.

"We feel like Columbus is positioned for outdoor adventure," Bowden said. "Not necessarily extreme sports, but it seems like every weekend there's a race downtown. So we're looking at all of those components -- foot race, bicycling, leisure fishing and everything connected to the outdoors.

"We've sort of got this synergy going right now and, of course, the beauty of it all is it's in a downtown setting. So you can do your fun stuff and, when you're ready to relax, you can either walk to a hotel room or go get a sandwich or something like that."

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