Development deal for Perry fairgrounds hotel collapses

A deal to build a hotel at the Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter has fallen through, but a new effort is underway.

The Georgia Agricultural Exposition Authority in January approved a preliminary agreement with Bran Hospitality to build the hotel, but final terms could not be reached.

Stephen Shimp, executive director of the fairgrounds, said a key sticking point was a requirement for a performance bond. That forced the developer to put up a bond guaranteeing the hotel would get built. Shimp said it was an extra cost the developer did not anticipate.

“We do not want to get stuck with a hotel half built,” he said.

The deal for the hotel is identical to what the state uses to build hotels on Jekyll Island, which the state owns, Shimp said. The performance bond is part of the Jekyll Island projects as well.

Shimp said a new request for proposals will be sought from developers. Bran Hospitality, based in Perry and owner of 13 hotels, made the only offer when the state sought proposals last year, but Shimp said he is optimistic a new developer will step up.

“It’s a missing piece of our puzzle,” Shimp said of getting a hotel. “It will be great for us and the area to get more folks on the road to come here.”

The developer would have paid the entire cost of building the hotel of at least 100 beds adjacent to the Miller-Murphy-Howard building. The hope was to lure more conventions by having a hotel attached to a 65,000-square-feet enclosed meeting space, creating a true conference center.

The fairgrounds hired a market-research firm to conduct a study on the potential of a 100-bed hotel on the property. It projected 61% annual occupancy in the first year, rising to 69% within five years. The average room cost was estimated to be $143.

The average occupancy in the market area, which includes 12 hotels, was 68% in 2017. Of that, 58% came from business travelers, 31% from leisure guests and 11% from groups.

The fair, held in October, draws about 500,000 people each year. The fairgrounds draws about that many more in approximately 200 other events held throughout the year.

Wayne Crenshaw has worked as a journalist since 1990 and has been a reporter for The Telegraph since 2002. He holds a bachelor’s degree in print journalism from Georgia College and is a resident of Warner Robins.