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Grove Street, Marriott land College Park hotel deal

By Rachel Tobin Ramos, Staff Writer
Atlanta Business Chronicle
Published on: 1/22/2007

In the shadow of the busiest airport in the world, College Park, Ga., soon will have two new hotels, a five-story class-A office building and 40,000 square feet of retail in a two-phase, multi-million deal with Atlanta-based Grove Street Partners.

The more than $200 million development is part of a master plan the College Park City Council approved last week, according to sources close to the deal. It will be called the "Gateway Center," and will be part of the 150,000-square-foot Georgia International Convention Center complex.

A memorandum of understanding between College Park and Grove Street will be signed at a press conference on Jan. 23, the sources said.

While the deal isn't complete, Grove Street hopes to bring Bethesda, Md.-based Marriott International Inc. (NYSE: MAR) to the table to manage the hotels, sources confirmed.

The 400-room convention headquarters hotel will have 10,000 square feet of meeting space, a parking deck and large restaurant space, and could be flagged a Marriott.

A smaller, 150-suite hotel could get the Marriott Spring Hill Suites flag. That deal between Grove Street and Marriott could close in March.

The existing Atlanta Airport Marriott is already the largest hotel in the airport submarket, with 649 rooms, so it's unclear how the two hotels would handle the close competition. The Atlanta Airport Marriott is the seventh largest hotel in Atlanta. The new 400-room hotel would rank as the 21st largest hotel in Atlanta by rooms, according to data from Atlanta Business Chronicle's 2006-2007 Book of Lists.

The new College Park hotels will break ground in September and are set to open in 2009, when a people mover system connecting Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport to an off-site rental car facility is also set to open.

The Georgia International Convention Center will be the middle stop on the people mover route, which College Park boosters believe will make it a convenient destination for conventioneers, especially with the addition of the hotels.

The convention center has about a 62 percent occupancy rate, but has needed full-service hotels to snag group meetings and other business.

Grove Street also is in discussions for a lead tenant in the 135,000-square-foot office building, and is targeting aviation-related businesses that want to be near the airport.

As the Atlanta Business Chronicle first reported on July 21, College Park issued the request for proposal last summer, after buying the land from Dutch billionaire John Fentener van Vlissingen for $25.8 million. Van Vlissingen and his partners had tried to develop the nearly 29-acre parcel themselves, but College Park wanted to speed up the process so that the hotels would open with the new people mover in 2009.

Grove Street's development ideas beat out three other proposals. The second phase of their development could include a third hotel and more office space, and will include 40,000 square feet of retail.

Grove Street was founded in 2004 by Kevin Kern and Chip Groome. The company recently hired Jim Stormont from consultancy Stormont Waterman Partners LLC. Stormont also is a veteran of Marriott Corp., Stormont Trice Corp., Stormont Hospitality Group LLC and Noble Investment Group LLC. He will lead Grove Street's hospitality efforts.

Veteran Atlanta developer and founder and former CEO of Post Properties Inc. John Williams also is an investor and partner in Grove Street.

Grove Street was recently selected to develop the area around the Cobb Performing Arts Center. It is developing an office project called Parsons Meadow in Johns Creek and 1.6 million square feet of industrial property in Henry and Jackson counties north of Atlanta.

W Visit Williams Realty Advisors