Lake County hotel projects are topic of two-month study

Lake County hotel projects are topic of two-month study

Mr. Mark Rantala (Lake County Ohio Port & Economic Development Authority Executive Director) Web Site: Email: [email protected] P...

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Mr. Mark Rantala (Lake County Ohio Port & Economic Development Authority Executive Director) Web Site: Email: [email protected] Phone Number: 440.357.2290

Lake County hotel projects are topic of two-month study Author: John Arthur Hutchison | The News-Herald

A two-month study is underway to determine the feasibility of five potential hotel projects in Lake County, including a resort hotel with a large indoor waterpark in Fairport Harbor. The Lake County Visitors Bureau and Lake County Ohio Port and Economic Development Authority have spearheaded the endeavor. Cleveland-based Hotel and Leisure Advisors was hired to conduct the study for a cost of $50,000 that will be paid for from the county’s bed tax collections, said Mark Rantala, the authority’s executive director. Four of the potential projects would be franchise hotels focusing on commercial and leisure travelers. These lodging facilities would be located at Route 2 in Wickliffe and near Interstate 90 in the Madison area, Concord Township, and Willoughby or Kirtland. The fifth facility would be a resort hotel with meeting space and possibly a large indoor waterpark in Fairport Harbor with a Lake Erie view. A study isn’t a promise any hotels are going to be built, Rantala said. Rather, the point is to help determine the potential, to gauge interest and to have data on hand to provide to developers. Rantala said there already are at least two hotel developers who have expressed an interest to build within the county. As part of the study, the agencies will gather opinions of local businesses and organizations through an online survey to determine what they feel the need is for the new hotels in the area. Rantala said requests to take the online survey have been sent out to around 3,000 businesspeople in the county drawn from lists provided by the chambers of commerce and Visitors Bureau. The response rate so far has been around 10 percent, which is considered to be on par with online survey rate completion percentages, he said. An online survey is only a small part of what the study entails, Rantala said. The firm is also studying topics such as daily occupation rates at area lodging facilities and competitive properties. “The study is countywide essentially, we thought there might be some development of opportunities at a variety of locations throughout the county,” Rantala said. “Right now, the finance market for hospitality projects is particularly attractive. Hotel developers are able to find financing for their projects.” Rantala said the study could identify potential locations where a project could be developed. “Then we could got to potential hotel developers to say, ‘Location x would be a good spot for a hotel and here are the numbers that justify that and see if we could help you develop a property,’” he said. Rantala said there has been a common desire for a number of years for a hotel to be developed in eastern Lake County that would cater to people visiting the numerous wineries in the region. Plus, the new SPIRE Institute in nearby Harpersfield Township also has brought in a lot more interest and visitors to the region and has sparked additional desire for lodging in the Madison area, he said. “There is a lot of tourism both local and regional to that area and there are no hotels (in eastern Lake County),” Rantala said.

Visitors Bureau Executive Director Robert Ulas said this is the first time anyone has done a study in Lake County to truly gauge the interest for hotel development. Ulas said one of the biggest inquiries from potential visitors to the county is whether there is lodging next to Lake Erie. He has to tell them there isn’t. “I’ve been getting calls for 22 years asking if you have a hotel by the water,” Ulas said. He noted that reports show that lodging occupancy rates at lodging facilities in Northeast Ohio, including in Cuyahoga County, have showed more positive signs. “They are recovering from the Great Recession, we’re sort of pleased by the occupancy,” Ulas said. Another component of traveling that factors in a potential visitor stay is to find lodging that isn’t considered outdated, he said. “Visitors often prefer fresh new venues,” Ulas said. “That’s why you see (hotel and motel) renovations every five to seven years.” Rantala said the potential for a resort hotel in Fairport Harbor was something identified in the county’s coastal development plan 10 years ago. The study will look to discover if the public’s desire for that is substantiated by the numbers, he said. “One of the components was land-side development next to the amenities like the (beach at Fairport Harbor Lakefront Park),” Rantala said. “If you look at Geneva State Lodge in Ashtabula County, it’s in an even more remote location.”