For nearly five decades, it was home to a large Holiday Inn that lodged visitors to Columbus, including tourists and sports teams. Now the property at 2800 Manchester Expressway — which also had a brief stint recently as a Clarion Inn — has been torn down to make way for redevelopment.
“We’ve had a lot of inquiries from developers in Columbus, from developers in Atlanta, who have shown great interest in this property, and we feel there is a great opportunity here,” Chris Woodruff, who co-owns the 5.5-acre parcel, along with an adjacent 3.5 acres, for a total of 9 acres, said Wednesday.
“It is a well-traveled corridor with 37,000 vehicles a day passing by,” he said. “So we’re in the very early stages of understanding what the best use will be for that property as it relates to this community and as it relates to the property itself.”
Woodruff owns the property with his sister, Stacey Beardsley of Atlanta, under the name, F&B Company. The siblings, who regained control of the longtime Woodruff family-owned land at the end of March, plan to take their time to decide what the future will be for the swath of prime acreage situated literally at the intersection of Interstate 185 and Manchester Expressway. Adjacent to the site, a Chick-fil-A restaurant opened last year to booming business.
“It’s a great piece of property and the site, because of where it is, deserves the utmost attention and the most responsible look and defining of what can best go there to suit not only the development needs, but the community needs and economic needs of the project,” said Woodruff, noting a feasibility study is under way to help the owners decide what might be the optimal fit for a site that has been a hotel for so many years.
“If you were to wave a magic wand, one would guess that multiple commercial uses on that site would be more advantageous,” he said. “So we’re not ruling out a single use again. But we’re also not ruling out mixed use, (which) opens the door for multiple opportunities.”
The property was purchased by Barnett Woodruff, the grandfather of the brother and sister, in 1968. At the time, he struck a deal with Holiday Inns of America for a 30-year ground lease, with two 30-year options. The option was renewed about 15 years ago, but the aging Holiday Inn property was converted to the Clarion Inn brand within the last two years, with it closing for good this spring.
A city building permit, dated May 17, shows F&B Company is spending $350,000 to tear down the former hotel, which had 222 rooms and encompassed 123,185 square feet of space. The market value of the property prior to its destruction, which included the existing structure, was just under $5.5 million, according to city tax records.
“As far as that job goes, we were just hired to tear the building down to the slab and we’re leaving the slab and we’re leaving the parking areas and everything,” said Steven Goodman, owner of Concord, Ga.-based Goodman Grading. The work should be finished within the next few days.
“It was built very well, I’ll say that,” Goodman said of the structure built for the Holiday Inn’s opening in 1969. “It was a lot of concrete and a lot of rebar. Our guys kind of joked about if a tornado or hurricane came, it looked like it would be a pretty safe place to be.”
Peter Bowden, president and chief executive officer of Visit Columbus GA, the city’s convention and visitors bureau, said the old Holiday Inn has a place in the city’s hotel history. At one time, it was the largest hotel in Columbus, with it perfect for military reunions, he said. The Georgia Bulldogs football team also stayed there several times when traveling to the area to battle the Auburn Tigers in nearby Auburn, Ala. There also was tragedy there in June 1978, with newly hired Auburn head basketball coach Paul Lambert dying in a fire, leading to the hiring of Sonny Smith as coach.
“We’re anxiously watching to see what might happen” with the property, said Bowden, who wouldn’t mind seeing another lodging brand land there. “There’s certainly enough land to put a nice-size hotel there, maybe even two. Or maybe a hotel and some restaurant/retail experience, sort of like when they built that Chick-fil-a and left enough land so they could put some retail opportunities around it.”
Aside from preparing the site for the future, Woodruff also said the old hotel was razed because of safety concerns. Since its closing earlier this year, there were a handful of break-ins, he said. The 9 acres include about 2.5 acres of forested land between it and a medical office park off Armour Road.
“In this case, you had a building that, if it was not going to be reused as a hotel and would ultimately be vacant, it would be a breeding ground for all sorts of bad things,” he said.
The redevelopment of the property comes with commercial brokers also trying to find another user for a prime piece of ground nearby at the corner of Manchester Expressway and Armour Road.
It was in February that Logan’s Roadhouse shut its doors after a long run at 2643 Manchester Expressway. Local brokers are now seeking a new user for the property, mentioning eateries such as Sticky Fingers, Tin Lizzy’s and Taco Mac as among the possibilities. Nothing has materialized yet.