Local leaders mark opening of first new hotel in 13 years
SALISBURY — Despite years of delays due to the recession and government red tape, Bhupen Patel said he never doubted the Courtyard Marriott would open in Salisbury.
“I always had confidence that we were going to pull it through,” said Patel, whose High Point-based real estate development company, BPR Properties, owns the new $12 million hotel on East Innes Street at Interstate 85.
Patel said he knew the Salisbury market would support a hotel and continued to believe in the location, just behind Blue Bay near Walmart and Cracker Barrel.
It took more than five years to open the Courtyard Marriott, double the length of time of most projects, Patel said. He bought the land in 2008 but had to shelve the project when the economy tanked.
Patel said he resumed development of the hotel in early 2011 but encountered months of delays trying to pull city and county permits.
The permitting process that takes between six and 12 weeks in other communities took more than six months in Salisbury and Rowan County, said Patel, who owns nine hotels and will open two more in coming weeks.
Hesitant to assign blame, Patel said the permitting process was long and tedious in general. He said he doesn’t want to dwell in the past and embraces the community.
“We are finally open,” he told a crowd of dignitaries and business leaders who turned out Wednesday to officially open the new Courtyard Marriott.
The project’s notorious delays helped force changes to the local permitting process. Rowan County ushered out two employees who ran the building codes enforcement department and hired a local architect to lead the office instead. Pete Bogle has earned praise from developers.
The city of Salisbury moved all of its development services under one roof at the new One Stop Shop at 132 N. Main St., which includes a desk for Bogle. The city also had a say in choosing Bogle as the county’s top building inspector.
Patel said he could not comment on the recent changes because once he had permits, he went to work and didn’t look back. After breaking ground, construction took 13 months, which he said is typical.
“We finally made it,” general manager Nicole MacPherson told the crowd. “We will be worth the wait.”
The Courtyard is one of the largest capital investments ever made in Rowan County, said Bill Burgin, chairman of the Salisbury tourism board, who called the project significant and personally satisfying.
“I know how much this project will benefit the entire tourism industry in Rowan County,” Burgin said. “And I continue to be amazed just how far tourism development in Rowan County has come, and this Courtyard is just a part of that big picture of the tourism economy.”
Local tourism leaders will work hard on behalf of the hotel to make it a success, Burgin said, making Salisbury and Rowan a tourist destination with marketing and events designed to “put heads in beds.”
The city and county each collect a 3 percent hotel occupancy tax, a relatively new development that was controversial.
In 2008, Rowan County commissioners turned down Salisbury City Council’s request to double the hotel occupancy tax to boost tourism marketing. City leaders turned to state lawmakers, who gave Salisbury the authority to levy its own hotel room tax.
The county and city tourism boards have since merged a significant portion of their revenue to create a joint marketing fund, which has become an example across the state.
County commission Chairman Jim Sides did not mention the hotel room tax controversy during his remarks Wednesday, when he welcomed BPR Properties and praised Marriott as a quality, family-owned business that takes care of its employees, who in turn take care of their customers.
Sides said he had researched the company and recited several statistics, including Marriott’s 3,700 properties in 75 countries and $12 billion in sales last year.
“We are proud to welcome the new Courtyard Marriott to our county and wish you many years of growth and success,” Sides said.
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.