July 16, 2009
Neal Wagner -
Although a nationwide economic slowdown during the past year has ransacked several industries across the area and country, Golden Triangle hotel and resort developments seem to be charging forward.
Developers in Columbus, Starkville and West Point are working to bring a total of more than 370 new hotel rooms to the Golden Triangle.
"It''s just a basic business principle of supply and demand," said Mark Castleberry, who is planning to construct about 200 hotel rooms near the intersection of Highway 82 and 18th Avenue North in Columbus. "We asked if there was a demand for new, higher-quality hotel rooms in Columbus and the answer was yes."
Drivers on Highway 82 in Columbus during the past few months likely have noticed the large cleared lot near the highway''s intersection with the 18th Avenue exit.
And though the lot now is little more than a grassy field, it soon may be awash with the mechanical sounds of excavation and construction equipment, Castleberry said.
"Lord willing, we will see some bulldozers rolling over there quick," Castleberry said, adding he will construct a 95-room Fairfield Inn and a 103-room Courtyard by Marriott.
However, Castleberry must complete several traffic-related projects before work can begin on the development, he explained. The Columbus City Council recently agreed to apply for a $1.5 million grant from the state Department of Commerce to aid Castleberry in completing the land improvements.
"I''ve never applied for anything like this before. I hope I get it," Castleberry said, explaining he would use the grant money to widen 18th Avenue North, install a traffic light near the property, add a turn lane to 18th Avenue North, complete a pair of bridges on the property and several other traffic-related improvements.
"The city has submitted that grant application, so that''s where the project currently stands," Castleberry said. "If the grant is awarded, there is a certain amount we will have to match, but we are still waiting to see what that amount will be."
In Lowndes County''s northwestern neighbor, construction crews are working to complete the finishing touches on a 70-room Hampton Inn on Highway 45 Alternate south of downtown West Point.
The large hotel already has brought about 20 jobs to Clay County, and likely will begin accepting visitors in a few weeks, said Tracey Styron, the hotel''s general manager.
"We are hoping to open Aug. 1 of this year, which is a very short time away," Styron said Wednesday morning. "Everyone has already been hired for the hotel''s opening, and we have about 20 employees."
Styron said she believes the new hotel will aid development in the Clay County city of more than 11,000 residents.
"(Developer) CDA Hospitality had everything together to begin this project, and they decided West Point would be a great location," Styron said. "Personally, I think this is absolutely a wonderful location.
"West Point is really starting to grow, and I think that will help us out a lot," Styron added. "We are very excited to be here."
Further west, business during the past months has been booked at a newly completed Hilton Garden Inn on Highway 12 East off of the Highway 82 Mississippi State University exit, said hotel Office Manager Deana Henson.
"We opened on Jan. 29 of this year, and business has been extremely good for us since then," Henson said of the 105-room Hilton. "We have been very pleased with the amount of customers we have had in the past several months.
"A lot of our business is corporate, but obviously MSU is a big draw for us as well," Henson added. "I personally feel like the community has really accepted us. We are certainly looking forward to football season bringing a lot of business into town."