Victory Drive to welcome new hotel

South Columbus will welcome a new hotel development to Victory Drive next year, marking yet another step toward the area's revitalization.

Atlanta-based AFCO Lodges, LLC, breaks ground Wednesday at 10 a.m. for its new project, a Suburban Extended Stay Hotel at 3666 Victory Drive. The more than $7 million project is set to open by the spring of 2008.

Offering more than 120 rooms, the hotel will provide accomodations for Fort Benning soldiers and their families as well as visitors to the National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center at Patriot Park.

The new Victory Drive hotel will sit on the property formerly occupied by The Ponderosa Motel — a notorious lodging property with a history of crime and prostitution prior to its early 2006 closure. In the spring of 2006, the motel was demolished and the 4.4-acre site — which once included a trailer park and two other buildings — was put on the market with a price tag of more than $1.3 million.

The property's sale to AFCO — owned by Sam Friedman — was finalized last week, said David Johnson, associate broker for Jordan Hart Commercial Services, who was in charge of marketing the property.

The new Victory Drive hotel will feature a workout area, expanded conference center, landscape courtyard with waterfalls and a swimming pool.

Reggie Richards, executive director of Columbus South, Inc. — an organization that promotes south Columbus and aims to attract developers — said she was happy to see AFCO's Friedman stepping in to help the area's revitalization efforts.

"He's taking a risk to be the first person to go and do that," she said. "Sam made the leap of faith, and he backs it up with numbers."

Friedman, who was unavailable for comment Tuesday, has led AFCO since 1971 and has been involved in a number of community service organizations, including the PATH Foundation — an Atlanta-based non-profit organization dedicated to developing a metrowide greenway trail system. Friedman is its founding chairman.

Richards said she thinks other developers will follow suit after Friedman, especially with the expected population increase from the Base Realignment and Closure decision. An estimated 30,000 new troops and civilians are expected to come to the Columbus area over the next five years.

"The rest of (south Columbus) has to be developed to get people to get comfortable about the area," Richards said.

Suburban Extended Stay Hotel is a part of Choice Hotels International — one of the largest lodging franchisors in the world. Choice Hotels is also the franchisor of Quality Inn, Comfort Suites, Sleep Inn, Econo Lodge, MainStay Suites and more.