By Steve Urbon
Standard-Times Senior Correspondent
NEW BEDFORD — A 100-room “mid-scale” hotel is planned to open just over a year from now on a 1.6-acre parcel on the waterfront, developers and city officials confirmed Wednesday.
Richard LaFrance of Westport’s LaFrance Hospitality Co. said a purchase-and-sale agreement has been signed with Scott Nanfelt, owner of the property, which now houses the Delken laundry across MacArthur Boulevard from the Bourne Counting House.
He and city officials declined to name the price, but he said he hopes to open the hotel in spring 2009. The property is valued by city assessors at $1.3 million.
“I know there have been a number of false starts, so we’ve been very conservative” about the prospects for the hotel, said Matthew Morrissey, director of economic development for the city.
He was referring to the repeated collapse of hotel plans for various parts of downtown over the past three decades. A hotel on this parcel, by contrast, he described as “low-hanging fruit,” and a early objective of Mayor Scott W. Lang’s administration.
Mr. Morrissey said that Mr. LaFrance was the most interested and aggressive of a small handful of potential developers who were selected out of a larger group that answered requests for proposals. The request was built around a marketing study that took eight months to produce, Mr. Morrissey said.
Most of the existing brick building, a 1940 industrial facility that until recently also housed the Finicky Pet Food Co., will be razed. (The pet food company relocated several months ago to the south waterfront at the former Standard-Times field, Mr. Morrissey said.)
But within the site at the core of the building is a historic granite structure that once was a whale oil refinery, and will likely be incorporated into the hotel design, Mr. Morrissey said. The property lies outside the boundaries of the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park, but Mr. Morrissey said Mr. LaFrance has proven aware of the need to build a hotel that fits the historical environment of the oldest part of the city.
Mr. LaFrance said that there is not yet a design for the hotel, as LaFrance Hospitality is negotiating with several hotel chains for a franchise agreement. LaFrance Hospitality, which operates White’s of Westport and Bittersweet Farm restaurant, also in Westport, owns several Hampton Inn & Suites, including ones in Westport and Fairhaven.
It also operates Hampton and Comfort Inn hotels elsewhere in Massachusetts and in New Hampshire. The city development represents the years-long objective of city native Gordon Wolfe, who served as a consultant on the project, as well as plans that never came to fruition.
“We’re not looking for a full-service hotel,” Mr. LaFrance said. Instead, the four-story structure will be much like the Hampton Inns, with similar price ranges, indoor pools, workout rooms and meeting rooms.
“It’s going to look like it belongs in New Bedford,” he said. “It’s a great city.”
Contact Steve Urbon at firstname.lastname@example.org
January 03, 2008