By Tom Hayden firstname.lastname@example.org
A Hampton Inn & Suites could open by 2009 on the busy Pine Island Road corridor in north Cape Coral.
Elmer Tabor, one of the owners, and his partners with Cape Hotels Suites LLC, are awaiting approval from their corporate owners, Hilton Family Cooperation, to build the 94-room hotel near the intersection of northeast Pine Island Road and Commerce Creek Drive.
“We looked at (north Cape) three years ago, but it wasn’t quite ready,” said Worldwide Hospitality president Fred Hirschovits, who is one of the partners.
Tabor expects approval from Hilton soon, and he hopes to open the hotel sometime in 2009. There are no other hotels on Pine Island Road in Cape Coral.
There are 15 hotels and bed and breakfasts in the Cape, including a Hampton Inn & Suites on Southeast 47th Terrace in the city’s downtown.
Despite a sagging economy brought on by sluggish real estate market, Tabor said this is the perfect time to undertake the venture. He said he believes the economy will be on the upswing when the hotel opens. The appeal of a busy Pine Island Road Road corridor, which is one of the city’s commercial hotspots with 321 businesses, also played a key role in the decision.
“Right now is the time to design and build any project — more big boxes or spec homes — because you want to be ready when the inventory (of homes) gets used up,” Tabor said. “If you wait until the inventory gets used up to start a project, you will be one or two years behind.
“There is also a huge amount of activity on Pine Island Road corridor, and we have seen the success of the hotel in the Cape. It will also take some of the burden off the residential taxpayer. We want to start going in a positive direction. There is growth in the Cape and we also took a look at the number of business travelers we have.”
Business travelers are a key reason for the success of the current Hampton Inn in the downtown area. The hotel has had 70 percent occupancy during the summer months, with almost 100 percent occupancy from business travelers Monday through Thursday. The hotel has a higher room occupancy during the week than on weekends and was consistently filled during season.
“Lee County sporting events are big and is a great filler for weekends,” Hirschovits said.
Cape Councilman Tim Day said there is a great need for a hotel on Pine Island Road.
“We’ve known for some time there’s been a deficit with hotel rooms (in Cape Coral),” Day said. We have all kinds of sporting events. People come in and have to stay in Fort Myers. It would be a welcome attraction. It could help attract more.”
Day said he he felt the Cape needed more than just the new Hampton Inn & Suites.
“There is enough demand,” he said.
“I think it might be good for the area,” said north Cape resident Johnny Ray, 63, who lives off Northeast Pine Island Road. “There are always people coming to town and they need a place to stay. I have no objections.”
However, one of Ray’s neighbors Charlotte Stait, 37, said she will not be throwing out any welcome mats.
“We don’t need more people in the area,” she said. “I’m content with the way things are now. We’re multiplying too much and it’s taking away from our habitat. Poor little animals.”
Once Hilton responds, Tabor anticipates the project to be in architectural design for about three months, with another two months in permitting and an additional 10-12 months of construction.
Hilton is undertaking a saturation study of the area to see where new hotels are rising, especially those along Corkscrew Road, Alico Road and Interstate 75 in the southern part of Lee County.
Tabor does not believe those hotels will have any impact on approval for the Cape hotel, which would be the the northernmost hotel in the city by about eight miles.
“I don’t mind,” said north Cape resident Moises Uveda, 47. “It could bring in extra business. Pine Island Road is building up.”