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Hyatt Place hotel is 8th in booming Washington County corridor

Tom Fontaine
| Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013, 11:24 a.m.
Washington County officials hold a groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013, to mark the start of a hotel-building project next to Meadows Racetrack & Casino in North Strabane. The 155-room Hyatt Place hotel is being built on a four-acre parcel adjacent to the sprawling casino and racetrack site.
Tom Fontaine | Tribune-Review
Washington County officials hold a groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013, to mark the start of a hotel-building project next to Meadows Racetrack & Casino in North Strabane. The 155-room Hyatt Place hotel is being built on a four-acre parcel adjacent to the sprawling casino and racetrack site.
A Hyatt Place Hotel below The Meadows Casino & Racetrack is set to open in spring 2015. The groundbreaking takes place on Wednesday December 11, 2013.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
A Hyatt Place Hotel below The Meadows Casino & Racetrack is set to open in spring 2015. The groundbreaking takes place on Wednesday December 11, 2013.
A Hyatt Place Hotel below The Meadows Casino & Racetrack is set to open in spring 2015. The groundbreaking takes place on Wednesday December 11, 2013.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
A Hyatt Place Hotel below The Meadows Casino & Racetrack is set to open in spring 2015. The groundbreaking takes place on Wednesday December 11, 2013.

A Hyatt Place hotel under construction on Racetrack Road in Washington County is feeding explosive growth that officials say has surpassed $1 billion in less than a decade.

“We're firing on all cylinders right now,” said Jeff Kotula, president of the Washington County Economic Development Partnership, after a ground-breaking ceremony on Wednesday in North Strabane for the hotel, which will be the eighth in the almost 2-mile corridor between Interstate 79 and Route 19.

Kotula credits the development boom to a “perfect storm” that includes passage of the state's gaming law and the discovery of rich deposits of natural gas. That has transformed Washington County's economy, shifting its focus to advanced manufacturing, energy and natural gas and a tourism industry that brings in more than $600 million a year, Kotula said.

The Meadows landed a casino license in 2006, breathing life into what locals say had been a dying racetrack and largely sleepy rural area. It invested $27 million on construction and renovations in the past two years. Natural gas brought drillers and related companies to the area in droves.

Retail centers such as the sprawling Tanger Outlets that opened in 2008, restaurants and hotels sprang up in response. The Meadows and Tanger spent a combined $17 million on Racetrack Road improvements to handle the traffic surge.

“Until 10 years ago, the only thing on Racetrack Road beyond the racetrack itself was the Doubletree hotel. Now something is popping up all the time,” North Strabane Assistant Manager Paulette Moyar said as she took a break from paperwork for at least seven proposed housing developments awaiting township approval, including the 206-apartment Park Place at The Meadows on Racetrack Road.

There's more coming. Among other projects, Cecil-based Horizon Properties Group plans to spend $40 million to develop a project known as The Street at the Meadows, a 22-acre mixed-use development that would include retail space, 90 apartment units and at least three restaurants. Horizon officials couldn't be reached.

The 155-room Hyatt Place hotel, which will connect to the casino by a bridge, is being built on four acres next to the casino and racetrack property. It is set to open in spring 2015.

“This hotel will offer an impressive solution to the ever-growing need for overnight accommodations,” allowing guests to extend their time at the Meadows and potentially drawing them from a wider geographic area, said Fred Branovan, president of FFC Capital Corp., the developer. He didn't say how much it would cost to build.

Bill Paulos, co-founder and principal of Cannery Casino Resorts, parent company of the Meadows, said the addition of the Hyatt Place will increase the number of rooms within five miles of the casino to more than 1,000. They include traditional hotels for casino guests and other short-term visitors, and extended-stay ones geared toward out-of-state workers in the Marcellus shale industry.

Tom Fontaine is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7847 or tfontaine@tribweb.com.

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