The groundwork for a new 70-room hotel in Abilene was set Monday when the Abilene City Commission approved four tax incentives.
It’s been 20 years since a new hotel has been built in Abilene. That was the current Holiday Inn Express. Since that time, the number of units available dropped from 295 to 204.
The former Priem’s Pride at 1700 N. Buckeye closed in December 2001 following a fire in the adjoining restaurant. America’s Best Value Inn was closed in 2016 when the 24/7 Travel Store expanded.
With the approval of the incentives of future taxes, the $7 to $7.5 million, 70-room Holiday Inn Express Formula Blue design could start next year and be open in less than a year.
Commissioners looked at four incentive options.
“I don’t see a bad option,” said Commissioner Dee Marshall.
“This has been a fun thing to see develop,” said Commissioner Trevor Witt.
“I’m excited to see that Abilene is moving forward,” said Commissioner Chris Ostermann.
“The only bad option is to not do anything,” said Commissioner Angie Castel.
The commission approved on a 5-0 vote the creation of a Community Improvement District of 2 percent for 22 years, Industrial Revenue Bonds for a sales tax exemption for project materials, Industrial Revenue Bonds for a 100 percent property tax exemption for 10 years and 3 percent of the 8 percent transient guest tax.
“I don’t know if any of us stayed at a Holiday Inn last night, but we made a good decision,” said Mayor Tim Shafer.
North of I-70
The new hotel will be built just north of the current Holiday Inn Express on Lafayette Avenue which is just north of Interstate 70. The new hotel will create 35 new jobs.
“There is no city money involved. They have a business plan that they have put together that says we need this to make this work and that is option A,” Shafer said.
He said other options might not have been workable for the developer.
“This package offers no risk to the city,” said Dennis Kissinger, a consultant for the city of Abilene. “It is simply at the risk of the developer.”
Bob Johnson said the owner of the existing hotel, the Ghosh Hajra family, is also the developer of the new hotel.
Johnson said there were two reasons for the development of the new project.
“One is that the existing Holiday Inn Express hotel, because of its age unfortunately, we have already been told by IHG it will be reflagged within the year,” he said. “It happens in the industry. Everyone knows that it is a great facility but this is just how the industry develops over time. Which means it will need to be reflagged at a lower but still mid-tier price point, leaving a good facility in Abilene for the attraction of groups and business travelers but at a lower price point than currently exists there today.”
The second reason is the opportunity for a new hotel.
“It frankly turned into a positive where we hope it does with the support of the public/private partnership to create a new hotel at the location,” he said.
Kissinger said there is also opportunity for future development of the area north of Interstate 70.
Chuck Scott, director of the Dickinson County Economic Development Corporation, said the area north of Interstate 70 has been somewhat stagnant.
“With Sips coming up to that area, we are seeing some activity. I think we will see additional interest in that particular area,” he told commissioners.
Johnson said the new hotel has the support of the owners of the Brookville Hotel restaurant.
Anjan Ghosh Hajra said studies and projects have shown a collaborative effort with the city is required to bring a hotel project to Abilene.
“We’ve made a sincere effort to propose a fair and moderate ask commiserate to the scale of the project which we are undertaking,” he told commissioners. “The proposed incentives will not only help us make the project viable but also help us take a more active role in helping to promote Abilene as a premier tourist destination.”
He said the new hotel will also have a tornado shelter as a benefit to the public.
“We’re proud to be part of the Abilene community. We have been providing a quality product here for 20 years. We look forward to bringing you a new premium establishment with all the latest amenities to Abilene.”
CVB Director Julie Roller-Weeks said the hotel will help Abilene’s economy.
“If we can generate additional revenue at Abilene’s lodging establishments, we can increase our marketing efforts which benefits Abilene’s economy,” she said. “By only rebranding the existing property, we will see an overall reduced price point and decreased revenue and decreased marketing initiatives. We are really excited about this project and appreciate everyone’s effort to bring it forward.”
After a short executive session, the Abilene City Commission voted 5-0 to accept purchase of $150,000 for property at 805 N. Van Buren owned by Neil and Jill Phalen.
The property was needed for the $2 million extension of Eighth Street from Washington Street to Van Buren Street.
The roadway is part of an agreement the city has with Great Plains Manufacturing to have a straight route from the Abilene location to the expanding Abilene West.
The city had started the imminent domain process which would require three entities to appraise the property.
Interim City Manager Jane Foltz said that because three commissioners would be attending the League of Municipalities Conference, no study session will be held on Oct. 14.
Contact Tim Horan at email@example.com.