A five-year-old plan to build a new midsize hotel in the northern section of downtown Hartford could be revived, city officials say.
Developer Ankit Patel, who pitched a plan in 2007 to build a 70-room eight-story Best Western Inn & Suites on Market Street, is now looking for financing to move forward with the project.
Patel received approval recently from the city's planning and zoning commission to extend for three more years a permit to build a hotel on the site at 370 Market St.
Patel did not return several calls seeking comment, but city officials say financing is not yet in hand to go forward with construction right away.
Hartford Development Services Director Thomas Deller also said if a hotel does get built, it will likely be a Candlewood Suites hotel rather than a Best Western Inn, which was the original plan about five years ago.
Patel, who owns several Subway restaurants, originally pitched a plan to build a $7 million to $10 million hotel on Market Street in 2007, after purchasing the property for $1.15 million. At the time, it was thought that financing to complete the project was in place, but after several delays and problems with the site the project never came to fruition.
The hotel location is part of a Northern downtown Hartford section that is seen as ripe for redevelopment. In 2008, former Mayor Eddie Perez unveiled a "Downtown North Project" that aimed to redevelop the area, which consists of 123 acres, 15 percent of which was vacant at the time. The area also contains surface parking lots and other under-utilized land.
Since then, the city has been active buying up some property in the northern section of downtown in preparation for future redevelopment.
Market Street has been envisioned as a service corridor that would include a mix of service establishments, hospitality businesses and health care offices. Patel's 2007 hotel plan was expected to anchor the site.
If a hotel does eventually get built it will come online at a time of much uncertainty in the downtown Hartford hotel scene. The economic doldrums of the last four years has wreaked havoc on several hotels in the city forcing some into bankruptcy and foreclosure.
In 2010, the owners of the former Crowne Plaza hotel just north of downtown Hartford filed for bankruptcy, and subsequently lost that property to foreclosure. The hotel now has a Ramada flag and was recently taken over by a new ownership group called Magilink, which has promised to make significant renovations to the property.
The 124-room Goodwin Hotel, owned by Northland Investment Corp., closed its doors in 2008 after suffering millions of dollars in losses.
The Hilton Hotel in downtown Hartford had to be bailed out by the city in 2010, after nearly being forced to close its doors.
The Greater Hartford hospitality industry however has recently shown signs of recovery, officials said.
Both corporate travel and convention business are starting to pick up after falling off dramatically since 2008.
"There are signs that things are coming back," said Ginny Kozlowski, executive director of the Connecticut Lodging Association. "We aren't back to pre-2008 numbers, but we are seeing some growth."
Michael Van Parys, president of the Greater Hartford Convention & Visitors Bureau, said Hartford County has been seeing families coming to events in larger numbers this year, particularly on weekends, which could be a result of the improving economy or families deciding to travel more for sporting and social events.
He said they have also seen improvement in the association market as "organizations are responding to the member needs for education, which helps to drive registration to events."
According to Smith Travel Research, Hartford hotels were 54.2 percent full during the first five months of this year, compared to 53.4 percent full during the same period last year. In 2009, during the depths of the downturn, Hartford hotels were only 47.7 percent full during the January through May period.
Meanwhile, hotels appear to be slowly increasing their rates. The average daily rate for a hotel in Hartford County stood at $102.11 at the end of May 2012, compared to $97.39 in May 2011, Smith Travel Research data shows. The revenue per available room also increased to $53.75 through the first five months of 2012 compared to $50.47 during the same time period in 2011.
Kozlowski said the state's new multimillion tourism campaign, falling gas prices, and increasing consumer confidence could further boost the Connecticut hotel industry, but economic uncertainty as well as government travel bans could hinder the market going forward.