Downtown Little Rock primed for two new hotels

    LITTLE ROCK (KATV) - Downtown is primed for two new hotels, a Homewood Suites by Hilton and a Hilton Garden Inn set to be constructed just blocks from each other. But are two more too much? Little Rock's Convention & Visitors Bureau says no.

    The Homewood Suites hotel is being constructed on the former Arkla Gas Building site at the intersection of River Market & Capitol Avenues. Set to have 115 rooms, each room will have between one and two bedroom complete with a kitchen. The McKibbon Group, based in Gainesville, GA, already owns three downtown hotels - the Courtyard by Marriott, Residence Inn & Hampton Inn.

    Just around the corner at Fourth & Cumberland, at the site of a vacant parking lot, will eventually be a Hilton Garden Inn. Still in the design stages the building is expected to rise to seven stories.

    "We've got 135 guest rooms including a full service restaurant and bar," said Chet Patel, president of Pinnacle Hotel Group, based out of Little Rock. "We've also got meeting space within the hotel."

    The Hilton Garden Inn will also be home to an indoor pool and ground-level retail space. Once the hotel is built it will also house the offices for the Pinnacle Hotel Group as they move their operations downtown.

    Both hotels, when complete, will together employ nearly 100 new people in hospitality type positions.

    But with eight hotels already downtown with everything from the former Peabody Hotel, now Marriott, to a Comfort Inn - is the demand for more even there? John Mayner, vice-president of marketing and communications for Little Rock's Convention and Visitor's Bureau says it is.

    "The new interest in downtown and our profile as a city getting raised, more things to do and see we think that the choice obvious statement would be yes there is enough interest, enough demand to do that," said Mayner.

    "Obviously we don't want to set ourselves up for failure," said Patel. "We're going to do our homework as well."

    And the homework shows downtown Little Rock's hotel occupancy rate runs 70% on average. Patel said Pinnacle has also looked at downtown hotels' average daily rates and their Hilton Garden Inn will provide yet another low cost option to an area with both high and low rates.

    "Competition is good, it's healthy right? You don't want to be the only one on the block either," said Patel.

    With more hotels set to be "on the block," increasing the amount of hotel rooms the city has to offer may lead to more retail development downtown with a potential increase in visitors staying in the heart of the city.

    Both hotels are set to begin construction in 2014 with expected opening dates in late 2015 or 2016.

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