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  • An artist's rendering shows the future Hampton Inn & Suites downtown. The hotel is expected to be completed by 2019. (Courtesy city of Fort Wayne)

Tuesday, September 19, 2017 1:00 am

Downtown to get Hampton Inn

Next to Marriott; will expand Grand Wayne's options

ROSA SALTER RODRIGUEZ | The Journal Gazette

A parking lot in downtown Fort Wayne is set to sprout a 125-room Hampton Inn & Suites, Mayor Tom Henry and city economic development officials announced Monday morning.

The new hotel will be across West Jefferson Boulevard from Grand Wayne Center and just west of the Courtyard by Marriott. The site is directly east of The Harrison and Parkview Field.

The new hotel may open by the summer of 2019, officials said. Construction could begin in the spring. The project's cost is estimated at $20.3 million.

Architects' renderings show a six-story building with frontage of brick and concrete and street-level windows that could become storefronts, developers said during a news conference at Grand Wayne.

The new hotel will bring the number of downtown rooms from 500 to 625, allowing officials to market Grand Wayne to larger groups who want accommodations within walking distance of meetings and other events, said Dan O'Connell, president and chief executive officer of Visit Fort Wayne.

“About two dozen times a year we have overflow situations where downtown hotels are full and we're utilizing (hotel) properties outside the downtown core,” he said.

The additional rooms meet a sweet spot for conventions of 700 to about 1,000 people, McConnell said.

White Lodging Services Corp. in Merrillville, developer of the 250-room Courtyard property, also will develop and operate the new hotel property.

Since early discussions about The Harrison in 2007, a second hotel had been planned for whenever the need arose, said Deno Yiankes, president and chief executive officer of White Lodging's investment and development division.

“The city ... more than delivered on its commitment,” he said. “We are thrilled to once again team with the city in bringing another premium-branded hotel to the downtown.”

Yiankes said the new hotel will not compete with Grand Wayne in terms of offering meeting room space, although it is designed with two relatively small conference-room areas. It won't have a restaurant.

But it will provide additional suite space, which is not abundant downtown, he said. Around 25 percent of the hotel's rooms, or 35 units, will be suites, Yiankes said. They are becoming increasingly popular with families who travel together – such as parents, children and grandparents, he said.

Suites are priced higher than single rooms but less than multiple rooms , which may offer a good value for families, Yiankes said.

They also offer a level of privacy with separate living and sleeping areas and kitchenettes, which can be economically attractive to family travelers, he pointed out. Hampton Inns often offer an expansive complimentary continental breakfast in their lobbies.

Nonetheless, Yiankes said he expects 60 percent of the new hotel's business to come from Hampton's core market, business and corporate travelers.

Henry, who comes from a family of 10 brothers and six sisters, joked that the new hotel should be “just big enough for a Henry family reunion.” He added that the new hotel should enhance Fort Wayne as a destination.”

“This could open up all kinds of possibilities,” he said.

O'Connell said he sees the new property as enhancing use of Embassy Theatre's reception spaces and providing more opportunities for overnight stays for those who take in the theater's shows.

The hotel will also be useful for overnight stays by people who visit the area to attend TinCaps games or participate in downtown events, such as the Fort4Fitness road races that end at Parkview Field, he said.

The hotel also provides another price point for visitors and an option for those who like using certain hotels' reward points for travel, O'Connell said.

The planned completion date of 2019 allows enough time for marketing the property to meeting planners, who typically book one to three years in advance.

A strategic analysis completed for Grand Wayne by Chicago-based Hunden Strategic Partners in 2014 showed a “critical” need for additional downtown hotel rooms. The study found that 300 more rooms would meet previously unaccommodated demand.

This hotel, officials said, is not connected to a proposal for what developers called an “upscale boutique hotel” announced in late November. Vera Bradley co-founder Barbara Bradley Baekgaard and Portland, Oregon-based Provenance Hotels said then they were looking for downtown sites for a 120-room hotel with dining and meeting space plus artistic flair.

White Lodging already owns some of the land on which the new Hampton would be built, city officials said. They said White Lodging is now exercising an option to the buy the land that it has held for some time.

The Fort Wayne Redevelopment Commission owns about 0.325 acre of the ground for the project and approved conveyance of the land for $1 at its meeting Monday. City Councilman Jason Arp, R-4th, cast the sole dissenting vote.

The commission also was asked Monday to invest about $250,000 in a covered walkway from the hotel to the parking garage southeast of it. Developers said the idea is to create a green space overlooking the ballpark for visitors entering and leaving the hotel.

Yiankes said after the news conference that not having the expense of building a parking garage or providing surface parking was key in choosing to develop the site.

The commission also was asked for $500,000 in tax increment financing for the project but took no vote. The commission's portion of the new hotel's property would revert to the city if the project does not proceed as planned, officials said.

The Allen County-Fort Wayne Capital Improvement Board will be asked to commit $1.298 million to the hotel plan at its meeting Sept. 28. The board's money comes from county food and beverage taxes.

The board has been discussing investing in a $105 million downtown arena, with one possible site on Jefferson immediately east of Grand Wayne. A consultant's report on that project is also due at the Sept. 28 meeting, board members said last week.

White Lodging also plans to freshen The Courtyard with new furnishings and rebrand Champions, a sports bar and restaurant, within the next two years, Yiankes said.

rsalter@jg.net