Land developer, hotel entrepreneur and Richmond Hill resident Kenny Patel had a vision about Richmond Hill exit 87.
On the road to fulfilling that vision, Patel has drastically increased the odds of Richmond Hill being a tourist stop by turning once wooded lots into three major chain motels.
Patel is now looking at the other Richmond Hill I-95 interchange, exit 90, and has high hopes for it. This month, he purchased some land near the interchange and plans to enhance the viability of it also being a prime location to lure passing-by tourists.
"There is no greater joy than having a vision, creating it, and watching it manifest into something that surpasses your initial dream," Patel said. "Looking at Richmond Hill today gives me that joy and makes me happy to be a resident here."
His entrepreneurial efforts did not start in Richmond Hill. They don’t end there either. Patel also currently owns two hotels in Pooler and another in Port Wentworth. Another is in the works near the airport.
In 1996, while maintaining and traveling between Hampton Inns that he owned in Darien and Savannah, he discovered Richmond Hill. He eventually sold those two hotels and set his sights on hotel development in Richmond Hill which he saw a tremendous amount of potential in.
Not only did he start the groundwork on his first Richmond Hill hotel that year, but 1996 also marked the year that he moved his family here.
"Even though he has bought hotels in other areas, it’s not that he’s moving away from Richmond Hill," said Patel’s operations manager Evon Allen. "It’s more of a ‘don’t put all your eggs in one basket’ financial strategy. He has more development plans in the city including a franchise restaurant."
Allen expanded on the idea of how a name value franchise restaurant, which is currently non-existent off exit 87, could potentially serve as a strong catalyst to also draw tourist dollars off the highways.
"There is a growing attraction to Richmond Hill," said Allen. "More and more travelers are choosing to not stay in Savannah due to congestion, crime, and even gas prices which are cheaper here. The time is right for this type of development."Patel’s exit 87 project started in 1998 when he developed the local Hampton Inn, and within the last two years it has come to include the neighboring Comfort Suites and Best Western. Patel’s three hotels here may likely soon be the only chain hotels off the exit. Currently, they share that moniker with the Holiday Inn, but Holiday Inn corporate is in the process of pulling their brand name from the Richmond Hill branch. The Richmond Hill Holiday Inn is also in the process of being sold to a business acquaintance of Patel’s.
All three of Patel’s Richmond Hill hotels have gained the reputation of maintaining a high quality standard. He said this is due in part from his desire to increase the quality of his hometown.
In conjunction with this, Patel has held a seat on the Board of Directors with the Richmond Hill Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) for the past several years.
Patel said there were many obstacles that came before him in his path to build up exit 87, but that city officials helped him reach his goal.
"This city is like a developer’s dream," Patel said. "I had a vision and the city supported me. Building the Hampton Inn was a very challenging project with the wetlands and water and sewer problems. Nobody wanted to build here (near the interchange), but we did it."
This month, Patel purchased land off exit 90 which he plans on developing. Patel said he supports developer Lamar Smith’s commercial tract (the upcoming Ford Park of Commerce off that exit), and believes there is much potential near that interchange.
Being a resident of exit 90’s Richmond Place subdivision, Patel says he has a strong personal interest for that area as well.
Originally from India, Patel moved here in 1989 where he started from the ground floor of the hospitality business as a night auditor of a hotel in Decatur, Georgia.
Several years later, he moved his way up to general Manager of a Days Inn in Albany. Soon thereafter, he met his wife, a hotel owner in Savannah, and it was there that he got his first taste of hotel ownership. That was the beginning of what is now a potent local hotel empire.
Patel has not forgotten his heritage.
Rather, he has taken the reins of a local humanitarian movement that is based on his cultural roots.
He is the head coordinator for the local BAPS chapter which Patel says is the Indian version of the Red Cross. The organization has a renowned worldwide reputation for its goodwill work based on a fusion of spirituality and social service.
As part of his work with BAPS, he designed and built the 18,000 square foot BAPS temple off exit 94 in Savannah which is where he spends a bulk of his time.
Patel is very passionate about his work with BAPS, and speaks with great pride of the work he has done and plans to do with the organization which he says keeps him grounded in his daily life and throughout all of his past, present and future accomplishments.