Hotel talk swirls across the county

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 17, 2005

As if rumors of one project were not enticing enough, Lawrence countians now have tales of two new hotels to capture their imaginations.

Two separate development projects, both of which appear to be in the early stages, continue to be more rumor than reality but could become the center of attention in upcoming months.

The proposed development of a Hampton Inn and shopping/dining complex in Ironton is still in the works despite a few delays, according to one developer. Meanwhile, signs of another lodging option recently popped up on the other side of the county.

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Motorists passing the intersection of U.S. 52 and Charley Creek Road may have noticed a banner proclaiming that a Comfort Suites franchise is coming soon.

Each one of the company's hotels are individually owned and operated, but a corporate spokesperson confirmed that the project is &#8221under development.“ Further details were not immediately available. Information on who owns the site was also not readily accessible.

The cleared lot in Chesapeake sits empty now but travel and tourism officials hope that both projects come to fruition.

&#8221We have almost triple the number of visitors that come through Lawrence County each year compared to the amount of rooms that are available,“ said Vivian Khounlavong, director of the Lawrence County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Even before the Grandview Inn and Suites was damaged in a fire earlier this month, the county only had 359 rooms available at six locations, Khounlavong said.

&#8221We lose people to Ashland (Ky.) and Huntington (W.Va.) because they have all the hotels. When Huntington has a big game or show, visitors go to Charleston (W.Va.)“ she said.

Lawrence County is also a key transit hub, making it a perfect place for a pit stop - if there were more places to stay, Khounlavong said.

Announced late last year, the Ironton hotel project has been relatively quiet as of late, but James Kratzenberg, managing partner of the group Ironton Commercial Development LLC, remains adamant that the deal is not dead, just taking a little longer than expected.

&#8221Everybody in the neighborhood wants it. Everybody in the town needs it,“ Kratzenberg said. &#8221It would be the perfect fit for Ironton.“

Perfect fit or not, the proposed site along Park Avenue and Ninth Street is anything but empty. 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.

The property options are being lined up for much of the land but the key to the whole deal remains the county finding a place for the group home so the commissioners can considers selling the property, Kratzenberg said.

Commissioner George Patterson said he would love to see things move forward but had not heard much about the project in a while.

The cost of moving the group home would all depend on what options were available, Patterson said. A new facility would likely cost much more than renovating an exisiting location, he said.

&#8221We will do whatever we need to do and we will work with the (Probate) Judge (David Payne) to find a location suitable to him,“ said. &#8221We have to find a good location and good facility. Once (the hotel) looks like a done deal, then we can talk about moving.“

Originally announced as a $12.5 million project, preliminary proposals included an 80 to 100-room Hampton Inn and a conference facility, something Khounlavong said the region could definitely support.

The Ironton hotel would be able to accommodate up to 200 people and several other adjoining restaurants, businesses and shops were expected to be a part of the package right now.

So far, though, both deals are somewhere between rumor and a reality.