New hotels planned for Oxford

By Errol Castens/Daily Journal Oxford Bureau

OXFORD – A longtime hotelier family is planning two new hotels in Oxford.
Chan Patel, whose family already owns two Hampton Inns and a Holiday Inn Express in Oxford, is planning the 94-unit TownePlace Suites development of the Marriott brand next to the Hampton Inn-Conference Center on Ed Perry Boulevard. He says it’s a natural location for another hotel.
“The Oxford Conference Center can hold more than 650 people, and we have 88 rooms across the street,” Patel said. “For both of us, it’s one hand washes the other. If the conference center can offer more available units and extended stay units, they could go after bigger groups and longer conferences.”
The TownePlace Suites development is in the engineering planning stages. Among its amenities will be an outdoor lounging area, complete with a firepit near an indoor/outdoor pool.
Patel also hopes to build a hotel in downtown Oxford on land that is practically sacred to generations of diners and moviegoers, at the corner of 14th Street and Harrison Avenue.
“I’m excited about this project on the former site of The Gin and The Hoka,” he said. “I’d been thinking for a year now what to do at the Square, and it just hit me in the middle of the night.”
A few details necessary for the project are still in negotiation, but Patel is confident they will be completed.
“In our strategic planning for the company, my father and I have decided we’re going to try to touch on every market segment,” Patel said. “We’re going to commence construction on the extended stay, but we don’t have the boutique hotel part or the restaurant/food service part yet.”
Patel says despite some slow economic indicators, the growing University of Mississippi, a proposed new hospital and other fundamental strengths make now a good time to expand their holdings in Oxford.
“I’m the eternal optimist,” he explained. “If you never swing the bat, you never make a hit.”
On West Jackson Avenue, Bruce Patel of Tupelo plans to build a small, boutique hotel.
Some of the tourism council members questioned at their recent meeting whether Oxford could support so many new hotels.
“We are getting reports from hotel owners that they average about a 50 to 60 percent occupancy,” Mary-Kathryn Herrington, director of tourism, said.
Council member Jim McCauley said a 50 percent to 60 percent occupancy rate year-round is a pretty good number.
“At 50 or 55, it pays your bills and you’re making some money,” he said.
Oxford’s hotel tax collections for April 2012, the latest figures available, were up 27 percent from the year previous, setting a new April record. Food-and-beverage tax collections were up 16 percent over the previous April, eclipsing previous collections for any month.
“We’re obviously excited about that,” Herrington said.
April tends to be one of the community’s biggest months for tourism in the spring due to two local events. The annual Grove Bowl and the Double Decker Arts Festival draw thousands of visitors to Oxford and the University of Mississippi.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
errol.castens@journalinc.com