Hotel in Ironton?

Published 10:04 am Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Some community leaders say ‘Yes’

Three years after acquiring the property and clearing the site, bringing a hotel to Ironton remains a viable project, say county economic leaders, although they’re not releasing names of possible developers or franchises.

“We are still working with other potential developers and are still marketing the Ninth Street site,” Ralph Kline of the Ironton-Lawrence County Community Action Organization, said. “We have sent out information packets and it is still out there. As far as I know we have a couple of national chains who have approved the site as long as you can get the developers.”

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The proposed site for the hotel is the property on Ninth Street bordered by Vernon Street and once the site of Dennis J. Boll Group and Shelter Home, a one-time armory and the former county engineer’s garage. The property is owned by Old Engineer Property LLC, an entity made up of the Ironton Port Authority, the Lawrence County Port Authority, the CAO, and the Lawrence Economic Development Corp.

“The interest that we are aware of was much more related to the Ninth Street area,” Dr. Bill Dingus, executive director of the LEDC, said.

Right now financing a hotel is one of the more difficult objectives in the current economy, Kline said.

“That’s on that list with movie theaters and restaurants,” he said. “You need a developer who is very strong in the industry with a good track record, good financials. Not all banks will do the lending for a hotel because they got burned with the whole financial crisis when the economy fell out. They took a hit.”

Part of the way a developer determines the city where he wants to build a hotel comes from his own research of the area, including the citizens’ view of their own hometown.

“With the research company, they will look at the atmosphere in the neighborhood,” Dingus said. “What kind of projects are going on. What new projects are opening up. They look at the issues going on on the front page of the newspaper. … A lot of turmoil in the community is not viewed positively for growth.”

Often times the developer is more interested in talking with what he would term an average citizen, not a member of the county’s chamber of commerce, Kline said.

“When businesses or developers or investors come into the community, a lot of time we don’t know they are here,” Kline said. “They want to see how the town acts. They like to watch the traffic pattern, what time of day people are coming and going.

“A lot of time they will strike up a conversation with a person on the corner of a street or in a restaurant. They get a feel for the community. You can only get so much from data. It is so important to have a positive image.”