By Alan Mauldin
ALBANY, Georgia (Albany Herald) — When developers approached Albany officials about bringing a hotel complex to the city, they promised a recognized brand would be associated with the project but did not identify a particular company.
The Gordon Hotel, scheduled to open in 2022, will be part of the Marriott International Brand, but of more note is that it will be the chain’s first black-operated hotel.
“We knew there would be a brand flag, but when we first started we didn’t know what the flag would be,” Lequerica Gaskins, Albany’s Downtown manager, said. “We’re excited it’s going to be the Marriott flag moving forward.”
The 207 Pine Ave. site, which once housed offices of the city’s Water, Gas & Light Commission, will be transformed by the development. J Car Development’s concept is to preserve much of the historical exterior of the building. But for decades prior to its reincarnation as a utilities office complex, the site was home of the Hotel Gordon.
California-based Homage Hospitality will manage the facility, which will include a ballroom and dining.
“It’s one of the few black-owned hotel brands,” Gaskins said.
J Car Development partnered with Homage Hospitality as an equity partner, with 6.67 percent ownership, and as operator, the firm said in a statement.
“Started in 2016 by Damon Lawrence, Homage Hospitality is one of the few black-owned hotel brands and operators in the space that is truly and uniquely embracing black heritage, legacy, history, and culture of cities through the medium of hotels,” the statement said.
“By weaving personal and local narratives into design, programming, and food and beverage offerings, we aim to curate a uniquely authentic experience. We take our cues from the local residents to create an experience that is built by the stories of the people that currently serve that community.”
When the project was announced in 2019 it had an estimated cost of $13.5 million. Delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the investment is now expected to total nearly $20 million, partially due to increased construction costs as the industry rebounds from the pandemic, but also due to enhancements.
J Car owner and developer Jason Benedict told Albany City Commission members in September the hotel will include pocket parks to provide an “urban oasis,” a second-floor ballroom and a “rooftop element.”
“(That) $19.8 million is going to be a huge investment for downtown Albany,” Gaskins said. “We’re excited to be a part of the story, and excited they chose downtown Albany as the backdrop of the story.”
The number of estimated jobs to be created also has grown, from 43 to more than 60.
The downtown area offers a variety of activities and sights for guests at the hotel, Gaskins said. The area weathered the pandemic relatively well with few closings, and a coffee shop will be announced for the corner of Front Street and Pine Avenue soon.
“Downtown Albany offers a lot of amenities,” she said. “Ray Charles Park is certainly something downtown has in terms of using greenspace. The Flint River is a huge, beautiful draw. Not a lot of communities have that resource.”
There also are the Albany Civic Center, an IMAX theater, the Flint RiverQuarium and other restaurants and entertainment venues within close proximity to the hotel, she said, as well as other attractions in the wider area. There also is shopping and, soon, the Albany Museum of Art will move to the city’s central business district.
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