Business

Companies competing to put Hampton Inn in downtown Columbus

By CHUCK WILLIAMS

chwilliams@ledger-enquirer.com

The former Aaron's Rents building on the southwest corner of 1200 Broadway. PHILLY-osophy restaurant currently anchors the location.
The former Aaron's Rents building on the southwest corner of 1200 Broadway. PHILLY-osophy restaurant currently anchors the location. rtrimarchi@ledger-enquirer.com

At least two hotel companies are working competing deals to bring a Hampton Inn to the heart of downtown Columbus, multiple sources with knowledge of the potential transactions confirmed on Tuesday.

Four JS Family LLLP, a partnership controlled by Columbus businessman Jack Pezold, has proposed a 60-plus room Hampton Inn in the current building at 1201 Broadway, according Pezold Management Group executive Tracy Sayers. It would be located at the former Aaron’s Rents building across 12th Street from Columbus State University’s new downtown education complex.

Vision Hospitality, a company based in Chattanooga, Tenn., with local business connections, has an agreement with the Development Authority of Columbus to purchase 1.75 acres in the Historic District, according to Brian Sillitto, senior vice president, Economic Development for the Greater Columbus Georgia Chamber of Commerce and The Valley Partnership. It is located at Eighth Street and Broadway adjacent to the Marriott and about four blocks south of the other site. The hotel would be up to 125 rooms, according to Sillitto.

Hampton Inn is a Hilton Worldwide brand.

Hilton officials did not respond to an email requesting comment on the potential deals, which are in front of the company’s franchise committee. Last month a Hilton spokeswoman confirmed that the Hampton Inn at  5585 Whitesville Road near the Columbus airport would lose its franchise license at the end of this year.

That appears to set up the tug-of-war for a Hampton Inn franchise. Including the one on Whitesville Road, there are four Hampton Inns in Columbus-Phenix City. Four JS Family LLLP owns two of those, one next to the National Infantry Museum in south Columbus and the other on Bear Lane in north Columbus. There also is one on Martin Luther King Parkway in Phenix City. It’s the closest one to downtown Columbus.

Four JS Family LLLP also owns the downtown Marriott across Front Avenue from the Columbus Convention & Trade Center. The Hampton Inn that Vision Hospitality is proposing would be on property that the Marriott, a 177-room, full-service hotel, is currently using for parking.

Sayers said he was surprised that Vision had an agreement to purchase the property.

“If there was a demand for more rooms next to the Marriott, don’t you think we would have been the first to build it?” Sayers said. “We know the demand for rooms there better than anybody. … If someone would have told us, we would have looked at it. We didn’t know there was a deal in play.”

Pezold presented his plan late last year to Hilton. Hilton in turn notified other owners who operated Hilton properties of the plan for a 60-room hotel in the 1200 block of Broadway.

Vision Hospitality Vice President of Development and Construction Hiten Patel has not returned multiple calls from the Ledger-Enquirer. Sillitto confirmed the agreement was in place and approved by the Development Authority, a city-appointed board.

“If Vision does not receive approval from Hilton for a Hampton Hotel franchise, Vision may terminate this agreement,” Sillitto said. “If they are awarded the franchise, Vision has a due diligence review period. The closing of the transaction is to be held no later than December 31, 2016.”

Vision’s purchase price has not been disclosed.

“The purchase price will end up being a discounted amount based on several conditions that will not be worked out until Vision receives approval for the Hampton franchise,” Sillitto said.

Vision manages two Columbus hotels, the Hilton Garden Inn in Brookstone Centre and the Homewood Suites by Hilton on Whittlesey Boulevard. Columbus businessman and councilor Glenn Davis is a part owner of both hotels and knows Vision Hospitality President and CEO Mitch Patel.

“They are good people and the city has the opportunity to fulfill the vision of a convention center hotel,” Davis said. “I don’t think the city will find a better partnership group than Vision.”

Davis, who has been developing hotels locally since he retired from Major League Baseball, said he is not involved in the proposed Vision deal.

The 1201 location Pezold is proposing has been cloaked in secrecy since August 2014 when it was purchased for $1.25 million by EJWH LLP. The corporation’s registered agent and general partner is J. Barrington Vaught, a Columbus attorney who specializes in real-estate law. Vaught has repeatedly declined to say who was involved in the partnership. On Tuesday, Sayers confirmed that Jack Pezold is the trustee and controls the property. Pezold Management has been working on plans for the site for more than a year, Sayers said.

“We have a project that is ready to start,” he said.

Plans call for the Hampton Inn to be built in the existing structure, Sayers said. There would be a two-tier parking deck constructed behind the hotel in an existing parking lot that is closest to Front Avenue.

If Hilton awards the franchise to Vision for the Historic District location, parking will have to be addressed. In addition to parking for the new hotel, there also would have to be 125 spots for the Marriott, Sayers said.

As the two entities wait for word from Hilton, Davis said the end result will be positive for the city.

“Whoever gets the franchise, I wish them the best,” Davis said. “At the end of the day this is going to be good for the city of Columbus.”

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