Rome Courtyard by Marriott Project Awaits Design Revision

Rome News-Tribune Article Feb. 14, 2013

The Marriott Corp. wants some changes to the design of the proposed Courtyard by Marriott of West Third Street in Rome before giving final approval to the project.

Rome City Manager John Bennett said Monday he received a notice from Marriott officials explaining that while they are still interested in green lighting the project, certain things have to be addressed.

“What they are doing in Rome is a custom facility,” Bennett said.

The fact that the Rome hotel is being built on top of a parking deck means that the local project deviates significantly from the Courtyard by Marriott prototype.

“As of last Thursday they had to go back to the drawing board and make a few changes, plus changes relative to the swimming pool,” Bennett said. 

The restaurant and lobby sections of the hotel also differ from the typical Courtyard by Marriott design and recent changes in the basic configuration of their guest rooms meant further revisions had to be made.

The original plan called for a larger fitness center and no pool, officials said.

“We are very supportive of the project and in a collaborative effort we are working with Duke Hospitality in making a few design revisions that will improve the project, including the requirement for a swimming pool,” the letter from Marriott officials reads. 

A Marriott official indicated he is confident the project will be finalized in the next couple of weeks.

“Mr. Bennett and the (City) Redevelopment Committee have done an outstanding job on this,” Commissioner Bill Collins said after Monday night’s City Commission meeting. “We are looking at great and promising things and this will benefit that area and all of the city of Rome.”

Commissioner Jamie Doss noted that the project is another piece of the puzzle that will make the downtown area special and is a collaboration of many different groups and organizations.

“We have had a vision for West Third for years and it is finally starting to come together,” Doss said. 

“But several things need to come soon to keep up the momentum,” Doss said.

The City Commission had already approved moving the deadline to close on the 2.2 acres to March 10 for a cost of $1.4 million.

Also, during Monday night’s meeting, Bennett presented his State of the City address.

After a couple of years where expenditures exceeded revenue, Bennett said he was happy to report that has flipped for the last three years and the state of the city is good and stable.

The city’s fund balance at the end of 2011 was $11.7 million and is expected to increase for 2012, which could bring it close to its peak of $12 million in 2006.

While new construction and water usage has decreased in the last five years, better budget management in all departments and general fund savings have helped to create a better situation for the city.

Total new construction permits issued by the city dipped from 216 in 2005 to 10 in 2011. Only 14 new permits were issued in 2012.

“The economy, to a large extent, is driven by construction,” Bennett said. “When you don’t have that the whole economy suffers.”

The city has been able to cut $1.8 million from the general fund budget since 2007.

During Monday’s caucus session, Joe Cook, Coosa River Basin Initiative executive director, spoke to the board clarifying the nonprofit’s position on the proposed City Center development along Riverside Parkway.

Cook said he was sorry for how he communicated the organization’s stand on the nearby Burwell Creek and surrounding wetlands during his appearance at the commission’s Nov. 12 caucus.

“The words I chose were not an indication of what CRBI’s position was on the City Center project,” said Cook, referring to the 300,000-square-foot retail space being developed by R.H. Ledbetter Properties.

Cook said CRBI wants to solicit the board’s support in working with Ledbetter to try and preserve both the retail project and the topographical features that exist on the property.

“Appealing permits is a last resort,” Cook said. “It’s something that we don’t want to do and I know Ledbetter would rather not deal with it.”

Rome Mayor Evie McNiece pushed Cook to continue to talk with Ledbetter in order to resolve the issues they have with the current plan that shows parcels developed on the areas currently made up of wetlands.

Action was taken in the board’s regular meeting on the addition of monetary penalties as a punishment for businesses that violate the city’s alcohol ordinance.

Per the amendment, establishments inside the city limits can be fined up to $2,000 as recommended by the Alcohol Control Commission and approved by the City Commission.

A motion was made by Commissioner Buzz Wachsteter and seconded by Collins. Those two as well as Commissioners Doss, Sue Lee, Detrick Redding, Kim Canada, Bill Irmscher, and Milton Slack III all voted to approve the amendment. 

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