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New hotels will be linked to airport

By Maria Jose Subiria

msubiria@news-daily.com

It has been 15 years since College Park has seen a new hotel, but by the end of 2010, two new ones will be up and running, linked to Atlanta's airport via passenger rail.

The six-story SpringHill Suites and a seven-story Marriott are being built next to the Georgia International Convention Center off Convention Center Concourse. The hotels are part of a mixed-use development under way called Gateway Center, which will have a stop along Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport's Automated People Mover. Real estate developer Grove Street Partners is investing $135 million in the hotels.

SpringHill Suites will have 147 rooms and the Marriott will have 403, along with meeting space of 20,000 square feet, a fitness center and two restaurants.

SpringHill Suites is expected to begin operation in February 2010, and the Marriott will open the following August.

College Park city officials welcome the additions.

"It's going to help the city attract additional economic opportunity and employment opportunity," said Jim Smith, College Park's city manager.

Hugh Austin, executive director of the Georgia International Convention Center, said the hotels will benefit local restaurants and retailers, as well as the city of College Park itself.

"As the owner of the GICC, the city of College Park will benefit from the increased bookings resulting in increased revenues at the convention center," said Austin.

Despite the nationwide economic slump, Kevin Kern, president of Grove Street Partners, says development, which began in September, is moving according to plan.

"The Marriott is four months into construction, and SpringHill Suites is two months into construction," said Kern. "We need to install the elevated slabs on the Marriott, and framing needs to be done on the SpringHill Suites."

Austin said the hotels are capitalizing on the people mover being built to serve the airport and its Consolidated Rental Car facility, which is also under construction. The route between the airport and the CONRAC is expected to transport up to 2,700 passengers per hour per day.

The Gateway Center development will be built to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards, and the SpringHill Suites building will be the first of its brand to hold the designation.

Kern said LEED buildings help the environment by reducing energy use.

While LEED construction is more expensive up front, College Park officials hope to continue promoting "green" development in the city.

"In the future, we're going to encourage all our developers to build LEED-certified buildings," Smith said. "We are not looking for quantity, but quality."