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Hotel study begins in Connellsville

| Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012, 1:22 a.m.

PKF Consultants, a company based in Atlanta, will conduct a marketing study in Connellsville next week to determine the financial feasibility of the construction of a hotel.

Michael Edwards, executive director of the Connellsville Redevelopment Authority, told authority members Tuesday night the McKenna Foundation recently donated money to the Allegheny Trail Alliance to hire the consulting firm.

Edwards said he does not know how much money was donated for the marketing study.

PKF will send employees from its Philadelphia office to conduct interviews in Connellsville on Nov. 28 and 29, Edwards said.

“The consultants will be meeting with various people in Connellsville,” he said. “They will be meeting with the owners of Bud Murphy's, the Connellsville Bed & Breakfast, funeral homes and other groups in Connellsville. They will be asking them many questions about their businesses and the city.”

Edwards said the consultants will probably ask Lucy King, owner of the Connellsville Bed & Breakfast, questions about how many people rent rooms at her business and how much she charges for room rental.

“The consultants will be trying to find out if it's financially feasible for a company to build a hotel in Connellsville,” he said.

A similar study was conducted in 2008, but Edwards said it is now time for a second study.

“The situation is a little different in Connellsville right now,” he said. “The bike trail connecting Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C., is expected to be completed next year, which means the traffic will increase. They are trying to determine if the completion of the trail could justify the construction of a hotel.”

Edwards said the consulting firm is expected to involve Fallingwater, Seven Springs Resort, Hidden Valley Resort and the Marcellus shale gas well industry in its marketing study.

“The consultants need to find out how many people are passing through Connellsville to determine whether or not there is a need for hotel rooms,” he said. “They also need to determine how many weddings and funerals are taking place in the city and how many people are coming into town and spending the night.”

Although the marketing study will be conducted, Edwards said, specific locations for the construction of a hotel will not be selected.

“The zoning will either have to be ‘C1' or ‘C2' (commercial) to accommodate the construction of a hotel,” he said. “Route 119 is zoned commercial. I imagine a hotel chain would want to be located along a major highway like Route 119.”

In other business, Glenn Wolfe of Widmer Engineering, the authority's engineering firm, said he is still working on bid specifications for the demolition of the historic Aaron's Building located at the corner of Pittsburgh and Apple streets.

“I have made an inquiry to DEP (Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection) to find out the proper procedures to handle asbestos and other hazardous materials that could be located inside the building,” Wolfe said. “We want to make sure that we get the bid specifications right the first time so we don't have to make any additional changes.”

Cindy Ekas is a freelance writer.

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