Dallas-based DBG Investments has secured a permit to build an eight-story Marriott Springhill Suites on Interstate 35, a development that will include a three-story parking garage and amenities that include a rooftop deck and bar.

The hotel will feature 133 suites and carries an estimated cost of $17.4 million, according to the permit. EP Construction of Oklahoma City will build the hotel at 115 S. Jack Kultgen Expressway, a site now occupied by Executive Inn and Suites, a budget hotel belonging to DBG that will be demolished. The Executive Inn is scheduled to close July 2.

“It is going to create quite a change in the skyline, towering over most everything there now,” said Bobby Horner, inspections supervisor for the city of Waco. He said the city’s Zoning Board of Adjustment voted unanimously to allow a variance for the hotel in a zoning category, C-3, that otherwise allows only four stories.

Horner compared the proposed height of the hotel to that of Clifton Robinson Tower at I-35 and University Parks Drive.

“There is a need for more hotel rooms, and this is a high-quality brand, an upgrade to what is there now,” city planning director Clint Peters said. “The rooftop will provide a great view of the river, and the entire development should make an attractive addition.”

He said the city asked developers to ensure that the architecture of the parking garage would blend with the look of the hotel.

“We also had them prepare mock-ups to illustrate the sight lines to ensure the garage would not detract from the view of the hotel from either the Baylor campus or downtown,” Peters said.

Demolition of hotel

Lauren Wirzer, who will manage the Waco project for EP Construction, said in a phone interview that asbestos abatement and demolition of the existing hotel would begin within weeks.

“Around the first part of August, we will proceed with construction of the new hotel, and we’re projecting completion in 18 months,” said Wirzer, adding he will rely heavily on local subcontractors.

Wirzer said EP Construction has completed other projects for DBG Investments, including construction of the 111-suite Hilton Home2 Suites in College Station and a Comfort Inn in Austin.

“The Waco property will be very nice, with that restaurant and bar on the eighth floor, an indoor/outdoor pool and the separate garage adjacent to the hotel,” Wirzer said.

Arjun Demla, an associate with DBG Investments, could not be reached for comment on the status of the hotel.

“We’re really excited about the project, and the city of Waco has been very gracious to work with us,” he said during an interview in March of last year, announcing the partnership’s plans. “It’s a good time to be in Waco. Everything is growing.”

Peters said the Springhill Suites planned for I-35 would include features and finishes not typically found in Springhill-branded properties at 300 locations around the country. Another Springhill Suites operates locally in Woodway.

The new Springhill Suites will replace a hotel built in the mid-1980s that has been called several names over the years, including Lexington Inn, America’s Best Value and Executive Inn and Suites.

“This will be a nice addition,” Waco City Manager Dale Fisseler said. DBG Investments has not requested economic development incentives to proceed with its venture, he said.

Megan Henderson, executive director of City Center Waco, said the hotel and parking garage impress her on several levels.

“Eight stories really makes a statement. That’s the kind of density Waco has not seen downtown in decades,” she said. “It definitely is a step in the right direction. I’m excited about its visibility from Interstate 35 and the message it sends about the direction in which our downtown development is headed.”

Walkway use

She said creating a concentration of people, including visitors and tourists who may want to walk to attractions, is important in the development of a central city. She said those staying at the hotel may use the walkway improvements along University Parks Drive, between I-35 and Franklin Avenue.

“This is a good example of how public investment in infrastructure and private development work together to create a functional downtown district,” she said in a phone interview.

Carla Pendergraft, director for marketing at the Waco and Heart of Texas Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the community needs the additional hotel rooms the new Springhill Suites will provide.

“We have 4,000 rooms in the market, and we have been among the top five cities for hotel occupancy for the past two years,” Pendergraft said. “For the first three months of this year, we were at 69.9 percent, behind only Austin, Dallas and El Paso. The state average is 64.1 percent, and many cities are in the 50s.”

‘Magnolia effect’

She said increased demand for hotel rooms “is part of the Magnolia effect,” referring to the popularity of Magnolia Market at the Silos, Sixth Street at Webster Avenue, that attracts an average of 22,000 visitors a week, many from outside Texas.

“Of course, Baylor University is still a huge generator for the market, and we have a busy roster of conventions,” she said. “But if I had to name one major factor for the growth, it would be Magnolia.”

She added, “We are underbuilt for hotel rooms, and the ones we have, we keep full. And though Springhill Suites will have much nicer rooms than the property on that site now, Waco will not see a sizable increase in its hotel base. We’re trading 133 rooms for 114 rooms, which is almost a wash.”

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