Third hotel planned for First Colony property

Relocation of a large Marietta retail store and the possible construction of a third hotel are in the preliminary plans for the second phase of the 27-acre First Colony Center development along Ohio 7 north in Marietta.

“We’re starting the second phase of the development, but will need city council’s blessing on a second TIF (tax increment financing) arrangement in order to continue the project,” said Mike Gulliver, project manager for developer Larry Lang Construction of Beverly.

Plans for the second phase include a 3-acre parcel where a new Tractor Supply Company store is reportedly to be built. The current store is located on Gross Street in the Frontier Shopping Center.

A construction permit for the Ohio 7 location has been filed by Tractor Supply with the Washington County Building Permits Office.

Gulliver said with city council’s approval of the second phase TIF, additional water service would be extended to the 3-acre retail site.

“That’s already in the development plans, to provide the volume and pressure needed to meet the requirements of (Marietta Fire Department inspector) Richard Stewart,” he said. “But we need council to say they’ll approve the second TIF in order to proceed.”

There are also currently two hotels located on the First Colony Center site, Fairfield Inn and Suites, and Comfort Suites, both built within the last three years by Florida-based MPH Inc. during the first phase of the First Colony development.

A third hotel, geared toward stays for more long-term guests, may also become part of the development.

Mike Holtz, president of MPH Hotels Inc., stopped short of confirming that a third hotel is in the works at First Colony, but said it “would not be out of the question.”

Gulliver said the growing oil and gas industry presence in southeast Ohio has been a driving force behind the construction of many hotels by MPH in the Mid-Ohio Valley area.

Holtz said MPH began looking for a hotel site in the Marietta area back in 2003.

“But there were not a lot of good locations available, so it took some time to find a site there,” he said. “But we’ve also built the Wingate Hotel in Parkersburg in 2005, the Holiday Inn Express in Mineral Wells in 2007, the Fairfield Inn and Suites and Comfort Suites that opened in Marietta in 2012 and 2014, and we’re opening a new Hampton Inn and Suites in Parkersburg in November.”

Holtz said while the shale oil and gas industry growth has played a part in the hotels development in this area, it’s not the only influencing factor.

“The economy is improving there, too,” he said. “On any given day we’ll have 300 guests staying at our hotels in Marietta. And restaurants are needed in that development. That would be a home run for someone to put in a nice restaurant there.”

Gulliver said Lang is continuing to market property in the First Colony Center development for restaurants and other businesses.

Marietta Councilman Tom Vukovic, D-4th Ward, and chair of council’s finance committee, said additional tax money the city has been receiving from the hotel/motel tax on facilities that include the current two hotels at First Colony Center, help fill the gap for lost city revenues.

“The loss of the inheritance tax that ended last year left us looking to fill a pretty large gap in our revenue stream, and the increased (hotel/motel) tax revenue helps fill that gap,” he said.

Vukovic noted, however, that the hotel/motel tax is dropped after about 20 days for guests staying long-term, like many oil and gas industry workers.

Still, he said those long-term guests do spend money in the local economy.