Hotel deal still alive despite talk

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 30, 2005

American author Mark Twain may have visited Ironton.

OK, well maybe he didn't but when he wrote, "The rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated," Twain could have been referring to the rumors surrounding the development of a hotel and retail complex in the city.

"No, it is not a dead issue," said James Kratzenberg, managing partner of the group Ironton Commercial Development LLC that announced late last year a $12.5 million project that would develop a Hampton Inn and a 7-acre shopping/dining complex along Park Avenue and Ninth Street. "It is still a viable project that is going to happen."

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Preliminary proposals included an 80 to 100-room Hampton Inn - a four-story facility that will include a pool and a conference facility that can accommodate up to 200 people - and several other adjoining restaurants, businesses and shops that would create between 150 to 200 jobs.

Part of the holdup came earlier this year when a bank merger cause the financing negotiations to start back at square one, Kratzenberg said.

"I am very optimistic," he said. "This will happen for the city of Ironton. The timetables have just been pushed back."

However, it is still too premature to set a new timetable for the project, Kratzenberg said. Construction of the hotel is still projected to begin this year and be completed in 2006.

The company owns several pieces of property in the area already but is still working towards acquiring the others, Kratzenberg said.

The project is contingent on finalization of financing which includes local investment, loans and grants and completing the property acquisitions.

The area is currently occupied by seven residences, the National Guard Armory, the Dennis J. Boll Group and Shelter Home and the Lawrence County Highway Garage.

Several property owners in the area have expressed concern over the slow pace of the project that has left them in limbo but many say they are scared to speak publicly about it for fear that it will jeopardize the plan.

Kratzenberg emphasized that it will happen, but it will just take a little more time than expected.

"As soon as the county commissioners and the judge find a location for the group home, things will proceed," he said. "I know they are looking at several options."

The commissioners recently ruled out possibly locating the group home in the former River Valley Hospital Building.