Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Officials 'actively pursuing' hotel for Midway, they say

By Andrea Richard
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

The Woodford County Economic Development Authority is “actively pursing” a hotel in Midway, Mayor Grayson Vandegrift told the Midway Messenger in a telephone interview Monday.

The mayor’s comment comes a month after the Oct. 29 announcement that the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority approved tax incentives for American Howa Kentucky Inc., an auto-parts factory that makes interior parts for the Toyota Camry, to build a plant at Midway Station.

Midway and Woodford County officials are optimistic that the development of the 100,000 square-feet building will bring about the possibility of the city’s first hotel.

“It’s a big goal” of the Woodford EDA to bring guest accommodations to Midway, Vandegrift said.

While it’s likely a hotel or motel would locate first in Versailles, the mayor said he doesn’t think such a property would diminish the prospect of a hotel in Midway, since it is on Interstate 64 and Versailles is not. Vandegrift said he is “confident that once a feasibility study is done, it will bring a hotel to the area.”

Just how soon residents and visitors can expect a hotel? The mayor said it’s “hard to say.”

“Companies want to do their homework,” Vandegrift said.

Nevertheless, Woodford EDA Chairman John Soper is confident that Midway’s acquiring American Howa Kentucky “is the next big step” for the city to land a hotel.

“People come in to industries to sell them things, to promote things, … so us landing this company is the next big step, hopefully, to help us land a hotel which we desperately want,” Soper said at the EDA meeting in Midway on Friday. 

A Subway restaurant opened recently in Green Gables.
Soper said a hotel operator looked at the 2-acre lot next to McDonald’s -- the development formally known as Green Gables -- earlier this year. Soper said after Friday’s meeting that a feasibility study was conducted and the operator decided that it was not the right time to build. He said he presumes that the independent developer did not visit Midway because of the way a similar feasibility study was conducted in Versailles.

“When you look at the demographics on the computer, this may not look like the ideal market,” Soper said. “I want to try to get the people in Midway, that hotel group, to come back and look at it. That’s what the people who looked at Versailles, they came here and looked at it, and spent two days here. We took them down to Woodford Reserve, we took them to KCTCS (Kentucky Community and Technical College System), they understood the Bourbon Trail, they made their decision to go forward, because there’s a lot of stuff that doesn’t necessarily show up on an Internet search that is really here.”

According to Soper, the prospective hotel operator looked at the property before American Howa Kentucky’s decision to build a plant in Midway was announced. Soper said one of the things a hotel developer looks for is the ability for the property to stay full from Monday through Thursday.
“Industry provides that,” Soper said. “I think it was the missing piece.”

Soper said the Shell convenience store, McDonald’s and Subway, located in the Green Gables development at the southeast quadrant of the I-64 interchange, also work in the prospect’s favor. 

“My understanding of what a hotel needs, it needs to locate next to food, which we have out there and we obviously have in downtown Midway, and gasoline, which we now have,” Soper said. “From every account they’re all very successful. So, a hotel wants to locate there because people want that near them.” 

Soper told the Messenger that he’s not sure whether or not the announcement will push the independent developer’s desire to build “up to the front burner,” but hopes that AHK’s plant will bring him “to the forefront.”

Dennis Anderson, owner of the Green Gables development, said that while they are hoping to put a hotel on the site, the prospect would “have to fit with [their] overall design for the property.”

Anderson said he’s “more focused on building communities than dollars per acre.”

“We don’t just sell to anybody,” Anderson said. “We’re patient.”

In addition to his Green Gables development, Anderson is the prospective developer of Midway Station, the largely failed industrial park created in the 1990s.

After many years of little development, and the city and the county still paying off the bond used to buy the property, EDA and the city struck a deal with Anderson to transform most of the property into a residential and commercial development. But that started as the Great Recession began, and Anderson did not exercise his option to buy the property. As the economy improved and industrial prospects surfaced, EDA had the rear 80 acres of the property zoned as industrial.

If residential property does prove to be first on Anderson’s list, the developer said he could see about 15 homes being built in the first phase.

Anderson said a number of options have been discussed: medical, retail, and a possible convenience store. Anderson also said people have expressed interest in residential property as well. 

“You’ll build houses, you’ll build jobs,” he said. “You’ll build houses, you’ll build jobs.”

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