Avid Hotel coming to Hattiesburg

By HASKEL BURNS,

In the past, you would have had to look pretty far to find an Avid Hotel - all the way to Oklahoma, in fact.

But now, Hattiesburg residents will have one in their own back yard, with only the second Avid Hotel in the United States on its way to the intersection of North 40th Avenue and Lundy Lane. The matter was discussed during a Monday work session of Hattiesburg City Council, where local developer Nick Welch and Laurence Leyons of the city’s Urban Development Department laid out a few particulars for council members.

“It’s a very modern, upscale hotel with a different look; it’s the latest franchise from (InterContinental Hotels Group),” Leyons said. “So it’ll give Hattiesburg the chance to be the first in something in terms of a hotel franchise, and it’ll draw new traffic in.”

Workers are currently in the process of demolishing the metal buildings at North 40th and Lundy - which formerly housed businesses such as Elite Screen Printing and a small convenience store - to make way for the Avid Hotel. The $7.8 million project is expected to generate about 75 construction jobs when work begins in early March, and will take about 10 months to complete.

The facility will offer between 79 and 81 rooms, and will boast 25 to 35 full- and part-time employees.

“We’re pretty excited about it,” Welch said. “It’s going to support that area with Mugshots right across the street, and you’ve got the other entertainment that’s going on.

“So I think with this development, there’s still some property that’s left that adjoins us … and I think there’s some one- or two-acre parcels left there for development, so I would assume that you could probably see maybe another restaurant or two, something like that. So it’s all pretty positive, and I’m pretty excited about it.”

The Avid Hotel project is the latest phase in the Chavez Square plan, which was begun by Welch in 2004 and eventually led to the building of businesses like The Grand 18 Theater, Mugshots Grill & Bar and the Courtyard Marriott.

“Years ago, that site was the corner of where you would enter into Hattiesburg, and it was just an abandoned, old trailer park,” Welch said. “So you can see with the city’s help, and with a developer partnering up together, what can happen.”

The cost of the Avid Hotel project is expected to be paid with a Tax Increment Financing bond, which reallocates funds from property taxes to encourage investment within a particular district.

“We’re doing a separate TIF plan, instead of amending the current one (from the initial development),” Leyons said. “The current TIF plan is now (several) years old, and they’ve already issued two bonds on that plan.

“So … the attorney recommended that we just do a fresh, clean TIF plan, rather than amending the language on the old one. The developer understands that it’s unlikely that the city will be able to successfully sell this bond, so they are very much willing to buy the bond, and they plan to bid on it as well.”

A public hearing regarding the hotel will be held March 4 in council chambers at Hattiesburg City Hall.