2 hotels possibly on the horizon for Connellsville

| Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013, 5:54 p.m.

Groundbreaking for a hotel could begin in Connellsville before the end of the year or in early 2014.

Developers from HotelD2 and Grant Forbes recently told city and county officials that acquisition of two sites and the planning are going ahead.

And if things go as planned, Connellsville might have two new hotels.

Chris Rosselot, project spokesman for Grant Forbes, said ground may be broken by the end of the year or shortly after on the site of the former Connellsville Bottling Works at 237-239 N. First St., West Side, between the Yough River Trail — part of the Great Allegheny Passage — and the Youghiogheny River.

“We've been meeting with various consultants, engineering firms and so forth, getting the lay of the land and getting a closer look at site,” said Rosselot, who has been working in conjunction with his father, Tom Rosselot, owner/president of HotelD2, on the developments.

”Things are moving,” Chris Rosselot said.

A plan for a second hotel on the site of the now-closed Sidewinders Bar at 225 N. Water St., almost across the street from the Amtrak station, will take longer.

Issues such as a federal lien on the property and a judgment against the owners, James T. and Jennifer L. Emerick, by former owner Robert L. Morrison must be overcome.

“I guess each site brings different issues,” said Rosselot. “There are various legal issues there. But that's not to say they can't be overcome.”

Rosselot said there has been no opposition from the property owners at either site.

“Even with that one (the Sidewinders site,) the property owners seem to want to come to the table,” he said.

Another hurdle: Both sites lie on the flood plain.

The developers must seek clearance from the Army Corps of Engineers and other federal agencies. However, Rosselot does not see that as an impossible obstacle.

He said the two hotels would serve different functions.

The one on the West Side will be developed to meet the needs of users of the Yough River Trail. The hotel on the Sidewinders site will cater more to the business traveler.

Michael Jordan, executive director of the Fay-Penn Economic Development Council, along with Fayette County Commissioner Al Ambrosini and several city officials, met with the developers for an update on the project this week. Jordan described it as a “working session” and not a formal meeting.

The hotel at the Sidewinders site could become a popular stop for people from Washington who could bring their bicycles to Connellsville on Amtrak's Capitol Limited train, which arrives in Connellsville for a scheduled stop at 9:47 p.m., Jordan said. They could stay in the hotel overnight, then cross the river the next day and bicycle back to Washington.

The hotel location, just a few blocks from Connellsville's downtown area, would be an easy walk for visitors, he noted.

“This has huge potential,” said Jordan.

Jordan, along with Connellsville Mayor Charles Matthews and Councilman Gregory Ritch, emphasized the date for a groundbreaking has not been set.

Matthews said there is hope a timeline for the projects will be developed soon.

There are added incentives for the developers from the city. A five-year tax abatement, keeping tax rates at their current levels and not a higher level, would be part of the package, Ritch said.

The city will give the developer a small piece of property near the West Side site as part of the deal, Matthews said. The city owns the property, which will go back on the tax rolls.

Jordan, Matthews and Ritch all emphasized Monday's session was not a formal meeting.

Attempts to contact Ambrosini were unsuccessful on Thursday. But Jordan and Connellsville officials praised him for the work he has done to procure the development package.

And the developers say they appreciate the effort from the county and local officials.

“I can't speak highly enough of the redevelopment authority and Michael Edwards, the city officials and county commissioners, even from the regional Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau,” said Chris Rosselot. “All are on the same page. It's a great partnership.”

Edwards was not available for comment on Thursday.

“It's a sign that Connellsville is moving forward,” said Ritch.

Karl Polacek is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at kpolacek@tribweb.com or 724-626-3538.

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