New hotels coming to stay

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 17, 2005

New hotels are looming on the city’s horizon.

The Hilton Garden Inn and Suffolk Conference Center, which has exceeded expectations and performance goals since opening six months ago, will have some competition within the next year, said Tom O’Grady, the city’s director of economic development.

&uot;Within the next 12 months, three new hotels will be opening in Suffolk,&uot; said O’Grady, during the Suffolk City Council’s retreat on Thursday.

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A Raleigh-based company will begin building a 100-room Comfort Suite Hotel at Centerbrooke Village, the new retail development under construction on Godwin Boulevard, in the coming months.

Tidewater Hotels and Resorts Inc. of Virginia Beach is poised to break ground any day on two Marriott hotel franchises in northern Suffolk. The company is investing more than $15 million in a 95-room Courtyard and a 72-suite TownPlace Suites near the intersection of Harbour View Boulevard and College Drive.

Several other hotel developers, drawn by the growing number of people working at the nearby U.S. Joint Forces Command and defense contractors, also have their eyes on north Suffolk, said O’Grady.

&uot;But their presence won’t have an adverse affect on the Hilton Garden Inn,&uot; he said. &uot;By the time they open, the Hilton will have been open for 18 months and will be well established in the marketplace.&uot;

The Hilton, which opened at Constant’s Wharf last March, has already had a banner year, according to a recent report shared with the Industrial Development Authority.

Year-to-date figures show a 50 percent occupancy rate for the hotel, 10 percent higher than expected, hotel manager Keith Alexander said in the report. That rate jumped to 70 percent in July.

Since the conference center opened, it has hosted nearly 11,000 people at 180 meetings, he said

Major local companies, including the U.S. Joint Forces and Lockheed Martin, have booked meeting space and blocks of guest rooms on several occasions, Alexander said.

The Norfolk Naval Shipyard, which has had meetings and booked rooms at the hotel weekly since May, has signed contracts for 2006 that will generate approximately $500,000 for the facility.

Local companies, churches and individuals are also taking advantage of the city’s newest meeting facility, Alexander said.

The hotel’s marketing team has already booked 12 weddings for 2006.

Local companies, including Ciba Specialty Chemicals, Vitex Packaging and Nansemond River Nursing Home, have booked the conference center every weekend in December for holiday parties.