Last updated: August 28. 2013 11:14AM - 18815 Views
Jennifer Shrader Staff writer

This artist's rendering of the new downtown LaGrange hotel shows the view from Lafayette Plaza, looking west.
This artist's rendering of the new downtown LaGrange hotel shows the view from Lafayette Plaza, looking west.
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After several stops and starts, LaGrange is closer to having a downtown hotel than it has been in seven years of planning.

LaGrange City Council signed off Tuesday on an agreement between the city, Callaway Foundation, Downtown Development Authority and developer that outlines the hotel plans.

The five-story, 100-room hotel, under the Marriott brand, will be built at the site of the former Mansour’s department store on the west side of the square. Directly behind the hotel, between it and Country’s Barbecue, will be a 200-space parking deck for hotel and public use.

“It’s a happy day,” said Tom Hall, LaGrange city manager, who has been working on the deal. “We’re not quite ready to break ground, but this is the business structure of the deal.”

City officials said that if all goes according to plan, demolition of the department store building should begin in February and construction of the hotel in April.

The city bought the vacant Mansour’s building about two years ago for $1.2 million. At one point, the city was taking suggestions from the community about what could be done with the property and council had looked at plans that included downstairs retail and upstairs loft apartments for the square’s west side.

The yearning for a downtown hotel has been a longer process, however, with a number of proposals being floated in the last seven years. The idea gained some steam earlier this year when council held its annual retreat in Rome. The northwest Georgia city has a fully developed downtown with a hotel/convention center.

Hall said that Bill Hodges, one of the developers of the LaGrange project, along with Ron Orr called the proposed hotel “the Ritz-Carlton of LaGrange.

“It will be one of the city’s nicer hotels,” Hall said. “It will define the downtown square for a long time.”

As part of the agreement outlined Tuesday, the city has agreed to grant the property to the development authority and demolish the former department store for a cost of $300,000 or less. The city also will work with the county and school district to create another TAD – tax allocation district – that will generate about $1.6 million in finances to help the project.

Hodges and Orr are putting up $1.5 million in cash, have secured a $6.5 million loan for the property and expect to receive about $4.9 million in “new market tax credits,” a relatively new federal tax program that aids development in low-income areas.

The Callaway Foundation is putting up $4 million for the parking deck.

Total cost of the project is $20 million, Orr said Tuesday.

As part of the agreement, the developers have said they will provide internships to LaGrange College students or other local colleges that have a hospitality program. The hotel also will provide exhibit space for local artists. Orr also said Tuesday the hotel will provide breakfast for clients, but won’t have a restaurant or retail.

“We didn’t want to compete with other downtown restaurants,” he said.

Developers and city officials said Tuesday the project is still in the planning stages.

“There’s always a possibility the economy will slow us down,” said Mayor Jeff Lukken. “This is an initial look.”

Lukken called the Mansour’s building downtown’s “most important block.”

“This is a beautiful, upscale hotel that will be a huge boost to downtown,” he said.

Hall said the hotel itself should generate about $75,000 a year in sales taxes for the community and “three times that much each year” in hotel-motel tax.

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