Local hotel developer Kenny Patel plans to build two motels and a restaurant on a tract he owns near the intersection of Hwy. 17 and Ponderosa Road – as well as a hotel on Exit 90. This week, Patel’s business manager Evon Allen disclosed the details of these development projects.
Allen said a groundbreaking date is very tentative, and it may be as far off as seven years from now.
Last year, Patel purchased a tract of land for a hotel near the Exit 90 interchange. Currently, the only lodging near that exit is the old A-1 motel on Hwy. 17.
Allen said the Exit 90 tract is the ideal setting for a hotel due to the fact that it would be the only one in the immediate vicinity combined plus all the attributes the exit has to offer such as the Welcome Center/Historical Society Museum, J.F. Gregory Park and the forthcoming Conference Center.
"A hotel will be going up there (Exit 90); it’s just a matter of what it will look like," Allen said. "We are doing an in-depth feasibility study and market analysis to see exactly what kind of motel to put there. We’re thinking about an extended stay with Fort Stewart being so close or even an all-suites property. Would the Conference Center generate enough business for an extended stay, and will travelers be willing to pay for extended stay rooms, which are priced higher because of the bigger rooms with kitchens? These are some of the things we are look at."
"Based on who wins the Presidential election, the amount of soldiers at Fort Stewart could go up or down which will factor in as well," Allen continued. "We anticipate having a clearer picture by March. It’s right in the middle of Exits 87 and 94, which are booming with hotel commerce."
He said the Exit 90 hotel will be adjacent to developer Lamar Smith’s forthcoming Ford Park of Commerce commercial complex.
Meanwhile, over on Exit 87, the duo has begun planning for the construction of two hotels and a restaurant at the intersection of Hwy. 17 and Ponderosa Road.
Althougha the name Dairy Queen was mentioned as a contender for the restaurant site during a recent Richmond Hill Planning and Zoning meeting, Allen said they do not know for sure which restaurant chain will end up at the tract.
Allen said the face of the restaurant may hinge on the results of September’s city election to potentially allow restaurants to permit alcohol sales on Sunday. He said he believes if the ordinance is approved it will open the door to more major restaurant chains being interested in the site.
"After November, I may be able to throw out five or six names of interested franchises," Allen said.
After Patel builds these two new hotels near Exit 87, he will own four hotels off the exit. He currently owns the Hampton Inn and Comfort Suites and developed the Best Western on that exit, but has since sold it to Danny Patel.
Other developers are getting ready to break ground on three additional forthcoming hotels off the same exit.
Directly adjacent to Kenny Patel’s Ponderosa Road site, developer Shaylesh Patel is building a four-story Fairfield Inn, Sleep Inn and two unnamed restaurants.
Just down the street, Holiday Inn owner San Patel is building a four-story Holiday Inn Express adjacent to his existing hotel.
None of the Patels are related.
Allen said they "embrace the competition" because it will only increase the viability of Richmond Hill as a rest stop while encouraging them to maintain high quality standards.
"When everything is finished, everyone will agree that Richmond Hill is the place to stay when traveling this way," Allen said. "Quality will be widespread because you will have several chains vying for customers. Richmond Hill will be a hundred percent more known than it is now."
Allen said the high standards of the Richmond Hill Holiday Inn got the ball rolling many years ago and "made it known as a great stop-off location."
"When Kenny built the Hampton, Comfort Suites and Best Western, it multiplied that reputation for the exit," Allen said. "Now you have all these new quality hotels going up. Who knows – the pull of visitors off the highway could be 10 times stronger when all these new developments come into play."
Allen said he and Kenny Patel are tentatively planning to create a hotel association they hope will include participation from every hotel and motel in the city.
"With all the hotel development here, hopefully we can all get together and discuss what is best for Richmond Hill," he said. "Other areas have hotel associations and there will be a need for it. There will certainly be more hotels to come than what is currently on its way."
He said Exit 90 is inevitable for the next hotel boom, and there is more than enough land available to support that.