EconoLodge presents its case, West Homewood forum, May 26, 2015
L-R Mead, Joe Mead of Sain Engineering, Rob O’Leary, representing Woodspring extended stay hotels, and Sanjay Patel, owner of the EconoLodge, present their plan for the aging motel property in West Homewood and answer selected questions submitted by residents. Resident Nic Seaborne was moderator.
A West Homewood forum gave the stage to EconoLodge owner Sanjay Patel, his engineer and a representative of Woodspring, the prospective brand for Mr. Patel’s planned extended-stay hotel at 187 Oxmoor Road. The forum, held at the Homewood Senior Center and moderated by Raleigh Avenue Baptist Church pastor Nic Seaborne, was put together after word of Mr. Patel’s plans were made public as the possible first redevelopment under the area’s new West Homewood District village code. Of interest to residents was Mr. Patel’s plans for a two-way street connecting Cobb Street to Oxmoor Boulevard via Scott Street–using property he acquired for the purpose of selling to the city–and plans to build a new structure at four stories, a requirement of Woodspring’s prototype but which exceeds the 3-story limit of the new district’s code.
Attendance was nearly 90 at the start. Speaking first was Mr. Patel’s design engineer Joe Mead, of Sain Engineering, which has handled several other projects with Woodspring. He said it is a conceptual design only and they were seeking input and response from residents.
The Econo Lodge motel recently underwent relatively minor upgrades, and sports bright orange guest room doors.
The current building fronting Oxmoor Road would be razed and the Woodspring facility built in its place. The existing rear building would be partially demolished.
Mr. Patel then narrated his personal story, as the son of Indian immigrants who worked manual labor to save enough to buy a small mom-and-pop motel in in Kentucky. He finished his college at Oklahoma University and was in the hotel business there until the recession, when he sold all his interests. He bought the EconoLodge in Homewood in 2012 and moved his parents and wife with him, saying he wanted to live in Homewood long-term.
Mr. Patel said he wanted to develop the entire property, adding a mixed-use structure, possibly selling the rear section, and adding a two-way road on land he has acquired and would sell to the city.
Woodspring, the brand
Woodspring representative Rob O’Leary spoke. He said the company was founded by a man who created the concept of extended-stay hotels. His first chain, Residence Inns, was sold to Marriott, and he founded a second chain that became Woodspring. He presented the brand as high quality and reputable, involved only with new construction, implementing scheduled maintenance and training franchisees. Woodspring requires a 20-year agreement with required inspections and rigorous enforcement. He said the organization had an 85.1% occupation rate system-wide as of 2014.
The franchise contract stipulates that an owner non-compliant with standards could potentially be forced to forfeit the property to a new owner or the company. Mr. Patel said he also wanted to upgrade and raise room rents for the remaining EconoLodge on the property.
Mr. Patel said he might sell the rear part of the current EconoLodge, and has a potential buyer.
The EconoLodge on Oxmoor and Cobb Street has proposed redeveloping a portion of the property as a four-story extended-stay hotel, requiring several variances under the new West Homewood District village form. Revelations about the plan, and its extent, have created a furor in the surrounding neighborhood.
As for the proposed road, he said he wanted ease of access to his property and to reduce cut-through traffic on his lot. He said there would be a 150-foot buffer between the road, or “Scott Street extention” and any houses. He has offered to sell land he has acquired to the city to build the road.
Will ask for exemptions from the West Homewood code
The Woodspring prototype requires a fourth story, which exceeds district regulations without a variance granted by the city. However, the overall height of the new structure would fall within current regulations. Also needing a variance would be the first-floor ceiling height and possibly parking, depending on the final design and location of other buildings.
In answer to some questions, Mr. Patel maintained that he has worked hard to rid the motel of prostitution and is working with police operations, will add more cameras and has hired a security guard.
About 90 residents came to hear Sanjay Patel describe his plan for the Oxmoor Road EconoLodge.
The EconoLodge plan, being uncovered in the wake of the relocation of a digital billboard from Lakeshore Drive to a site just off Oxmoor Road galvanized neighborhoods in opposition to the plan or in agreement that the community needed to be better informed and engaged in local government plans. Tonight’s forum was the fifth gathering called to discuss issues such as the billboard, prostitution, crime, and neighborhood activism.
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