Courtyard by Marriott Follow-up

In publishing my post last Thursday, November 13th, I erroneously reported that White Lodging would be joining Barry Real Estate at the Council table on the 25th.  I have checked back with one of my sources and also had it confirmed by Jeff Pruitt who confirmed with City Council President Tom Didier, that an invitation has been extended to White Lodging to appear at the table sometime in December.  When speaking with my original source, we had been talking about the 25th and I assumed without clarifyication that this was what was meant.  It is clearly my fault.

I must say that I never expected this kind of activity as a result of my post.  And, yes, for the record, I am taking credit for stimulating this discussion.  Nothing has been said about the proposed Courtyard by Marriott for quite sometime – nothing.  This discussion was partially what I hoped for – to stimulate someone into finding out something.  I’ll admit that I’m a bit gun shy when it comes to calling someone on the phone and asking for a response.  I’m getting better at it, but I tend to err on the side of caution and not pushing limits.  That said, brace yourself.

Dan Turkette at FortWayneNews.com picked up on my story last Thursday and made a phone call to Deno Yiankes at White Lodging.  Mr. Yiankes shared with Dan that, “most of the required permits had been obtained, including building permits and foodservice permits through the health department.”  Yet, as I pointed out Thursday, when I called the Building Department, no applications, permits or anything was in the system, in fact, the address wasn’t even in their system.  The address I used was that listed on the tax abatement application filed by White Lodging back in April, 2008.

Dan promised a follow-up to his post with additional information, but has yet to post anything.

Today’s Journal Gazette has an article by Ben Lanka:

City claims progress on yet-to-start hotel

[…] Greg Leatherman, executive director of redevelopment, Monday told the Redevelopment Commission that developers for the Courtyard by Marriott have been in town to discuss permits with the Allen County Building Department.

While the permits have yet to be purchased, Leatherman said the information has been submitted and the permits are ready for the hotel developers, White Lodging Services, of Merrillville, and Acquest Realty, of Bloomfield Hills, Mich.

[…] The city’s contract with the developers requires it to be open for business by April 2010.

That end date means construction has to begin by the end of this year, Leatherman said.

The commission earlier this year approved moving the required construction start date from Nov. 1 to Dec. 31.

“They are still optimistic about having it going by that date,” Leatherman said. “Obviously, we’d want them to get started right now.”

I have attended every Redevelopment Commission meeting this except for yesterday – the first I’ve missed in a year.  I’ve checked my notes, went through agendas and found nothing about moving the date to the 31st of December.  I’m not saying it didn’t happen, but I can’t find anything to substantiate this.  I believe this happened, it’s just one of those things I find weird that I do not remember it.  Jeff and I talked about this and he remembers it as well.  Anyway, I find it odd that permits are ready and information has been submitted and yet when I called the Building Department had nothing in their computer.  I had been asked what this was in regards to and I answered Harrison Square.  The woman I spoke with still couldn’t find anything.  Perhaps it was filed under another street address?

Then, there is this article in this afternoon’s News-Sentinel by Kevin Leininger:

[…] “First they were going to break ground (on the hotel) in October. Then it was November. Nobody has said anything to us. The longer we don’t see something happening, the more apprehensive I get,” said Grand Wayne General Manager Bob Lister. “We have another five conventions pending, but they won’t commit until they know the hotel will be ready. With today’s economy, that worries me.”

The hotel isn’t officially behind schedule yet because the city’s Redevelopment Commission earlier this year agreed to allow Merrillville-based White Lodging Services to delay groundbreaking from Nov. 1 to Dec. 30. White has secured the necessary permits, but with company officials still searching for a construction loan, even they say there’s no guarantee the two-month extension will be enough.

“It is disconcerting,” said city Deputy Director of Redevelopment Greg Leatherman, conceding that timely construction of the hotel – unlike the also-delayed condominium and retail component – is crucial to Harrison Square’s economic health.

[…] Deno Yiankes, president and CEO for investments for White Lodging, blamed “unparalleled market conditions” for the lack of financing, but said the company is negotiating with a potential lender and could have an agreement within two weeks.

“There’s a chance (groundbreaking) will come in the first quarter (of 2009), but we’d still be OK. We’re pretty optimistic. The demand for hotel rooms in Fort Wayne year-to-date is still OK, but that may soften.”

As things stand now, the hotel is supposed to open by May 30, 2010 – two months later than originally planned, Leatherman said, because White doesn’t want to open in inclement weather. […] But where Harrison Square is concerned, schedules seem increasingly flexible – at least where the city’s private partners are concerned.

[…] The move [in reducing the number of units and configurations of The Harrison units] might have resulted in even fewer buyers, at least in the short term, since people who had bought condos under the old design had to recommit under the new proposal. Most have done so, Hardball’s Project Development manager Jim Irwin said, “and we have received a lot of new interest. But, given the economy, they have the luxury of time.”

The mystery surrounding the project continues to deepen.  I say mystery because we’re getting some conflicting facts and there’s some dots I cannot connect.   December 30, December 31?  Open by April 30, May 30?  Permits ready to be picked up, secured the necessary permits, “we don’t have any information on that”, the Redevelopment Commission approved moving the date back earlier this year.  

Here’s the thing and here’s my motivation in this.  It isn’t to be able to say ‘I told you so’ or point fingers or uncover some hidden plot (not that I believe there’s one to begin with), or even the bragging rights over who got the facts right – and right the first time.  But, it is about understanding and knowing exactly what is happening with this project.  We – the taxpayers and citizens of this community – deserve to know without a doubt, the clear unadulterated facts.

Related Blog Posts about this issue:
Barry Real Estate Appearance DelayedAroundFortWayne – 11/13/2008
Is White Lodging backing out?Fort Wayne News – 11/13/2008 updated 11/16/2008
News Sentinel Corroborates Hotel Financing Troubles – Fort Wayne Politics – 11/18/2008

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