Monday, February 18, 2008

Country Inns & Suites Coming to Marion

Crews working for Zeller Construction demolished the back wing of America’s Best Inns this morning to make way for a new 66-room Country Inn & Suites hotel set to open later this fall.

"We hope to pour the footings the week after next. I want to be open no later than the middle of October," stated Jim Zeller in a news release this afternoon. He's the owner of the construction company and the new hotel along with his wife Kellie.

Zeller purchased the property located along Halfway Road and immediately south of 17th Street Bar & Grill last fall from the owners of the America’s Best Inns motel. The location will allow motorists easy access from the new interstate interchange now under construction north of Route 13.

The new Marion project will be Zeller's second entry into the hospitality industry. He built the 59-room Fairgrounds Inn in DuQuoin next to the state fairgrounds that opened in June 2006.

"I'm excited about this thing. I’m ready to go," he told me.

The new Country Inn & Suites will include a pool, hot tub, continental breakfast, a small conference room as well as an exercise room.

Corporate officials with the chain approved Zeller’s franchise application today. Zeller’s plans also include a second phase of 40 or more rooms to be built later in 2009 if needed. DART Design of Marion is the architectural firm handling the design. Zeller Construction will oversee the building phase.

With its location in Marion’s original tax increment financing district the $5 million project is eligible for some TIF incentives from the city. An application for a redevelopment agreement with the city has been filed.

The Country Inn & Suites hotel chain is owned by Carlson. According to the company website, it's an international mid-scale lodging chain with more than 380 locations worldwide founded in 1987. Each location features "residential architecture and home-like interior design with highlights that include hardwood flooring, lobby fireplace and front porch."

Today’s announcement of a new Country Inn & Suites hotel brings the number of lodging establishments either open or under development in the county to 28. Based on current plans it appears that there will be a net gain of 18 rooms to the county’s lodging inventory by the time the hotel is open.

By then we should have around 1,285 rooms or cabins available to tourists here in Williamson County. That figure also includes seven additional rooms or cabins added by three other smaller facilities.

The latest figures released by the Illinois Bureau of Tourism last summer showed the economic impact of travelers in Williamson County to be more than $90 million in 2006, up 7.4 percent from 2005. Those expenditures by tourists also added $4.9 million to state coffers and just over $2 million in local tax receipts.

Meanwhile we should also see the opening of another bed and breakfast later this spring in Hurst.

Winegeese Inn, owned by Tom and Sharon Lynch, will include three rooms for tourists. Later the couple will open the adjoining business, Celtic Vineyards, which will be the county’s first modern-era winery.

Other new lodging developments include three additional rooms now under renovation at Mary’s Bed and Breakfast in Herrin which opened last fall with one room, and a new cabin now under construction at Devil’s Kitchen Cabins near Devil’s Kitchen Lake.

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