Shelton developer plans to buy Bridgeport Holiday Inn for housing


BRIDGEPORT — Nearly 40 years after it was built, the downtown Holiday Inn — the city’s main hotel — is about to be sold and converted into market-priced apartments.

“I negotiated to buy it,” local developer John Guedes told Hearst Connecticut Media on Monday, confirming rumors that the nine-story structure at 1070 Main St. had been quietly put on the market by owners Trefz. Properties.

He said he hopes to close the deal soon.

Of the 105 rooms, Guedes plans to keep 18 suites for long-term hotel guests — “someone can’t just book it for one night” — and split the rest between one- and one-bedroom furnished apartments. two rooms. It is also in talks with operators to take over the existing restaurant, bar, conference rooms and catering on the first floor.

“The intention is to go after the young professionals who take the train to New York (City). The millennials who don’t like to pay their bills,” Guedes explained. “So here they can rent an apartment that has all utilities included, is fully furnished. They pay a monthly fee and they have everything they need.

Built in 1986 and purchased by the Trefz family in the mid-1990s, the hotel as of 2020 was valued at $5.9 million and valued at $8.5 million, according to city records. It’s one of the few major gathering sites in Connecticut’s largest city, and over the years has hosted many campaign functions, gubernatorial and mayoral speeches, business meetings and meetings. other civic and political events.

A spokesperson for Trefz did not respond to multiple phone messages and emails from Hearst in recent weeks regarding the Holiday Inn’s future. However, company attorney Raymond Rizio, in a statement on Monday, called the ongoing deal with Guedes “attractive” in part because of the developer’s desire to maintain some of the hotel operations like services. catering and events.

“It was a key factor in the decision to go with Mr. Guedes among other buyers,” Rizio said, noting that his clients still owned several other large downtown properties.

Guedes said the property lost money and started considering adding the property to its portfolio last April.

“There was a lot that went into that – the research (and) what we would need to do. Basically, we are investing $6.5 million to do the conversion,” Guedes said, adding, “The building is very well maintained.

Guedes is already involved in the city center. His city-based Primrose Companies is behind a 92-unit apartment complex at Congress and Main streets. City officials chose Primrose in 2018 to develop these municipal lands. Work has been significantly delayed by some contaminated soils and the coronavirus pandemic. Delivery is now scheduled for spring 2023.

By contrast, as long as the final sale of the hotel goes smoothly, Guedes expects it will only take about six months for the first apartments to come online.

Guedes said downtown needs more housing — and especially market-priced apartments — to boost the neighborhood’s economy and help local restaurants, entertainment venues and small businesses thrive. He noted, for example, that he would likely also reserve space for a convenience store at the hostel, as the only market that opened – Ripka’s – only lasted six months in 2013.

“If you bring in residential developments at market rate, that generates a need” for more services/retail, Guedes said.

Professor Brian Marks of the University of New Haven’s Department of Economics and Business Analysis is also the executive director of the school’s entrepreneurship and innovation program.

“It’s no surprise,” Marks said Monday when briefed on efforts to convert the Holiday Inn into apartments.

He said hotel industry occupancy rates had fallen from around 86% in 2019 – the global coronavirus health crisis hit the country in early 2020 – to 59% last year, with people having stopped traveling and gathering. As a result, Marks said, property owners are considering “asset use and restructuring of their assets so that they are not specific to a particular type of use.”

“This is just further evidence of this structural transformation,” Marks said. “I would say that the company acquiring this property (Guedes) has taken an appropriate approach. Retain the restaurant, retain some amenities associated with a hotel, and convert the units to apartments.

Marks noted how the pandemic has also spurred a migration from larger, more crowded urban centers to places like Bridgeport, which puts more pressure on the local housing market.

Councilman Jorge Cruz, who represents Downtown, and Lauren Coakley Vincent, head of the Downtown Special Services District, the entity that markets that neighborhood, both welcomed news Monday of the impending purchase and transformation of the Holiday Inn by Guedes.

Cruz noted how the developers of the Steelpointe waterfront site in the East End, a short drive or walk from downtown, have planned their own hotel.

“So that (the sale) would be beneficial to the Steelpointe project,” Cruz said. ” That’s how I see things. (And) more apartments, more bodies downtown, more spending downtown, that’s a beautiful thing.

Vincent said DSSD strongly supports efforts to build more housing in the area.

Regarding the loss of a hotel, Vincent also noted the plan for Steelpointe and added, “We have heard of the possibility of converting McLevy Hall (a historic downtown municipal building) into a hotel over the past last two months of our city hall contacts.

Vincent added that despite successful efforts over the past few years to open more attractions like the Concert Amphitheater and the Stress Factory Comedy Club to draw visitors downtown, she understood that the Holiday Inn was not going to not good.

“I think the COVID-19 pandemic has really been a challenge for this property,” she said.

Tom Bucci was the mayor of Bridgeport in the mid-1980s when the downtown hotel had just opened.

“It had its ups and downs, but it was, at the time, a stimulus for economic development,” Bucci recalled Monday. “It later changed hands and remained a downtown staple largely due to the commitment of the Trefz brothers, who were very pro-Bridgeport and very active in Bridgeport.”

Still, Bucci said, Guedes’ name is respected — the developer has had great success in downtown Shelton — and his plans seem logical given current economic trends.

“If a hotel isn’t viable, at least it continues the restaurant, the lounge,” Bucci said. “I wish him all the happiness in the world”

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