Hotel Mini-Boom Comes To Alexandria/ Pineville

ALEXANDRIA, LA (AP) — Construction and renovation will bring at least an 18 percent boost to the number of hotel rooms in the Alexandria-Pineville area.

         The work includes renovations at the Hotel Bentley and Holiday Inn Downtown Convention Center in Alexandria, and hotels under construction or approved in the cities, The Town Talk’s Jeff Matthews reported.

         The last time so many projects were going on at the same time was in 2007, when four new hotels were built.

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         Most of the new development is on the south side of Alexandria, within sight of the Alexandria Mall.

         The Courtyard by Marriott, built there in 2010, is being joined by the 91-room TownePlace Suites and 89-room Home 2 Suites, which are well under way, and preliminary work has begun across South MacArthur Driver on a 96-room Fairfield Inn and Suites.

         Hotel development generally goes in 10-year cycles because customers want newer and better facilities, said Jay Sharplin of Southern Hospitality Group, which bought the convention center hotel from the city and plans to reopen it in early 2016.

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         "Think about the last time Alexandria had a bunch of new projects come online," Sharplin said. "We're sitting on that 10-year cycle."

         People who know the business say low interest rates and the likelihood of increased demand are other major drivers of the mini-boom.

         Before the Holiday Inn Downtown Convention Center closed for renovations, Alexandria/Pineville had 2,527 hotel rooms, according to the Alexandria-Pineville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

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         The planned 453 new rooms would be an 18 percent increase over that.

         "I think this is a good thing," said Sherry Smith-Ellington, the bureau's executive director. "I think we do need new hotels. I'm very optimistic about the future, so I think we will use those rooms."

         The Holiday Inn Downtown Convention Center and the Bentley, both of which are connected to the Alexandria Riverfront Center, are counting on convention business coming back to Alexandria. The city used to do a good business in medium-sized state and regional conventions, but much of that dried up when the Bentley closed and the Fulton deteriorated.

         A resurgence in convention business would not only create a market for the 96-room Bentley and the Holiday Inn Downtown Convention Center, Sharplin said the effects would spill over to benefit other hotel properties.

         In addition to convention business, other factors that could fill the area's added hotel capacity and drive further demand in the future include continuing to attract more sports tournaments, bigger events at a renovated Rapides Parish Coliseum and planned manufacturing facilities, most notably a 1,500-job aluminum facility in Pineville.

         "If the convention business comes and if these plants that have been announced are fully developed, we'll get some more hotels," said longtime local developer Rod Noles.

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