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Riverfront hotel proposal years in the making

It’s been three years since the current iteration of a proposed hotel in downtown Warren was born.

And while a site plan has only been revealed publicly for the first time today, it’s clear much work has gone into the proposal behind the scenes.

Underpinning the entire project is the belief that the riverfront along the Allegheny River is the most valuable in the city.

The idea of a hotel in this exact location isn’t new — remember the hotel and convention center proposal of the early 2000s?

Freenock cited a hotel feasibility study from 2017 that “confirmed that a downtown hotel would be a viable venture” as well as the city’s downtown strategic plan that called for such development.

Critics frequently point out the location of hotels on the city’s west side.

Freenock said that “from what can be gleaned, both business travelers and tourists prefer the Hampton Inn or Jamestown hotels to those located in the west end of Warren.”

With the recommendation in hand, city staff went to work.

“Representatives of the city met with the Scotts of Scott Enterprises in Erie; attempted to meet with the Shaler Group in State College, with the developer of an office park in Clarion, with Richard Huff who was involved in the 2006 hotel venture in Warren and with the Patels who also develop hotel projects and had early interest in a hotel project,” Freenock said, “all to no avail.”

The city did secure a meeting with Todd Hanes, principal of Hanes Hotel Development, LLC of St. Marys.

“Mr. Hanes and his investor group determined that the Warren market is viable and he has been working with the city to develop a riverfront parcel which will accommodate a 59-room hotel,” Freenock said. “It has taken a great deal of time and effort to develop this project.”

This isn’t the only downtown hotel possibility that has been identified.

Freenock said that last fall Ruzhdi Bakalli, who’s HIY, Inc. rehabilitated the Loranger Building at the base of Liberty St, met with city staff and the WCCBI “to discuss converting the remaining space in his building into a boutique hotel.”

She said Bakalli wouldn’t undertake the project unless the other hotel project were pulled.

“Both the boutique hotel and the franchise can co-exist as they will attract differing clientele,” Freenock said.

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