Construction is underway on a new Tunnel Road hotel just east of downtown Asheville. It’s the first new hotel property there since the Holiday Inn opened there in 2008.
Monark Patel, president and CEO of Asheville-based Milan Hotel Group, says he’s building a 6-story, 80-room Fairfield Inn and Suites at 184 Tunnel Road to fill the need of “an upper-midscale property near downtown, but without downtown rates.” The property is a Marriott flag, and the only one of its kind Marriott is doing in Asheville, Patel says.
“Downtown is just a five dollar Uber ride away, and the rates are not as high,” Patel says.
The new Fairfield Inn is scheduled to open next September, he adds.
The new construction is an indication that the blush may be off downtown, where two hotels (Hyatt Place on Haywood Street and Hilton Garden Inn at the corner of Charlotte and College Streets) have opened, three new hotels are actively under construction (the AC Hotel, a Cambria Suites and The Hotel Arras), and several more are planned.
Tunnel Road is one of the city’s older main arteries and the site of what was once the stop of choice for travelers – the motor lodge. Tunnel Road is still dotted with several 1950s-era motor lodges that hang on as extended-stay properties.
Patel, a former Bank of America banker, says that he bought the Super Eight hotel at 180 Tunnel Road in 2012. The property was in foreclosure, and it sits adjacent to the site of the new hotel under construction. “We renovated it and repositioned it,” Patel says.
Patel says that a year later, he bought the Country Inn and Suites, 190 Tunnel Road, and did the same thing. The hotel is located across the street from the Super Eight and the future Fairfield Inn. Patel also owns the Clarion In in Biltmore Village, a property that he bought last July.
Patel sees Asheville filling with new hotels and knows that occupancy rates and hotel room rates will likely fall as the new hotel rooms (an estimated 3,000 new rooms) come online over the next few years.
“I think the (hotel growth) will be sustainable, as long as everything else continues to grow. I think the TDA is headed in the right direction” as far as its marketing strategies, he says.
Patel adds that the strategy for some hoteliers is to build, then sell quickly, though that’s not his plan.
“It’s not a flipping game for me. I live in Asheville and am in it for the long term.”