Increased business travel, more tourism and the developing Utica Shale seem to be factors in a renewed interest in building hotels in the Canton and Akron area. Developers back to building hotels
Hotels are popping up in the greater Canton area almost as quickly as on a Monopoly game board.
The newest project started two weeks ago in Jackson Township, with construction of a SpringHill Suites Marriott owned by local hotelier Dave Patel.
Meanwhile, work is progressing on an 80-room Residence Inn on Arlington Ridge East in Green. The hotel is one of three on the street built and operated by Alliance Hospitality Inc., based in Lewis Center.
In the pipeline are plans for three hotels at the Interstate 77 and Faircrest Street SW interchange. Two more are proposed for the Belden Village area.
Work should begin later this year for a hotel in Lake Township, next to the retail magnet that is Hartville Marketplace, Hartville Hardware and the Hartville Kitchen.
Companies building the units and community observers said a variety of factors including tourism, business travel and oil and gas, are driving the new interest in hotel construction.
Location is one reason for the development.
The I-77 corridor between Akron and Canton ties together more than two cities. The highway leads to companies such as Timken, Goodyear, Diebold and Lockheed Martin. There also is the Akron-Canton Airport, which has seen steady passenger growth for more than 15 years.
“It’s become a go-to airport,” said Ohm Patel, managing director for Alliance Hospitality.
Tourism is another factor.
Hotels fill up every summer for the Pro Football Hall of Fame and Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club. But the Hall of Fame, McKinley Museum, local wineries and other sites keep people coming through the year.
John Kiste, executive director for the Canton Stark County Convention & Visitors’ Bureau, said the retail business outside Hartville has become a travel destination for some, which is why construction is expected to begin this fall on a Comfort Inn & Suites. It should be open in time for next summer’s Pro Football Hall of Fame events.
“We’re finally starting to be a place to be reckoned with,” Kiste said of the increased tourism business in the area.
Efforts by oil and gas companies to develop the Utica Shale formation have brought workers to the area, which has pushed demand for hotel rooms.
The projects planned near the Faircrest Street interchange likely are fueled by the oil and gas boom, observers said. The interchange is close to Canton and leads to areas in Carroll County and others where early drilling has been concentrated.
Monica Corbin, chief of operations at Dave Patel’s hotel operations, said travel for business and sales calls has increased as the economy has rebounded. Travel related to oil and gas development has come in on top of the other business growth.
Page 2 of 2 - Alliance Hospitality — which owns the Knight’s Inn and Microtel in Jackson Township as well as hotels in Green — has seen occupancy rates above 70 percent over the course of the year, Ohm Patel said. Maintaining those averages is an indication that more rooms are needed.
High occupancy rates have helped Stark County’s coffers. The county auditor’s office collected more than $1.25 million on hotel bed taxes during 2012, a 17-percent gain from roughly $1.07 million collected in 2011.
Corbin called the SpringHill Suites a “boutique Hotel” that is a geared toward families needing an extended stay. The hope is that it will be viewed as a high-class hotel. All of the rooms are suites, Corbin said. Guests will get breakfast. There is a patio and fire pit area for relaxing.
Ohm Patel said Alliance Hospitality and other companies adding hotels locally are established operators who have been in the Canton and Akron market for a long time. They are responding to pent up demand, he said. “We’re reinvesting back into the market.”
Canton and Akron are lacking full-service hotels that have restaurants, conference rooms and other services, Ohm Patel said. He noted the McKinley Grand in downtown Canton and the Holiday Inn in Jackson Township as Stark County’s two full-service hotels.
“It would be nice to have another quintessential full-service hotel,” he said.Whether that happens, remains to be seen.
Wayne Weithe, Green’s development director, said interested developers often are asking about locations, although no definitive plans have been presented.
Most developers are eyeing property along I-77, Weithe said. “They all want visibility along the highway.”