Developer Joel Testa will finally break ground on downtown Akron’s first new hotel in decades.
The groundbreaking ceremony — a private event set for Friday evening — comes almost four years after Testa first publicly revealed plans for a 10-story tower-style Marriott hotel to be constructed beside the Northside Lofts, at the northern edge of downtown.
Friday’s event is a “sky breaking,” Testa said. “The idea is we’re building a 10-story urban Marriott, and we’re going to again break the Akron skyline.”
The price tag of the hotel is about $20 million. Construction should be complete sometime next summer, Testa said.
Testa Development built the 10-story Northside Lofts, just west of the site of the future Marriott, on Furnace Street, in view of Luigi’s restaurant.
The new Courtyard by Marriott will have 146 rooms, 26 more than Testa initially proposed. Testa said market research shows there’s a demand for that amount. The hotel will feature a fitness center, swimming pool, outdoor patio, small private movie theater, two banquet rooms and a conference room.
A larger-than-normal Marriott MarketPlace convenience store should attract residents in the next-door Northside Lofts condominiums, Testa said.
Various Akron business and government leaders have said they would like to see an alternative to Akron’s only downtown hotel: the aging, independent Akron City Center. It’s a former Radisson and Ramada that a new operator is trying to refurbish.
The groundbreaking for the 146-room Marriott — in the area dubbed the Northside District — comes as a separate development group works to piece together financing to construct another downtown hotel. This 160-room hotel would be attached to the historic Greystone Hall at Mill and High streets, across from the John S. Knight convention center. This site is a little more than half a mile south of the future Marriott.
Amerimar Realty Co. of Philadelphia last year teamed up with a group of local businessmen for the Greystone hotel project, which includes significant rehabilitation of Greystone Hall.
Testa said the “turning point” for making the Marriott a reality came last year when Testa Development brought in a partner: hotel management company Concord Hospitality Enterprises of Raleigh, N.C.
Testa and Concord officials have been involved in “a long process of meticulous room design” to mesh with Mariott’s new hotel room prototype.
“Until we had the design, we never really took [the project] around” to show potential lenders, Testa said.
Now, he said, “We have financial commitments from lenders and investors.”
The buildings just to the east of the Marriott site — including the storefront Zeber-Martell studio/gallery — will remain. The ceramic studio is a stalwart of the Northside District, having moved into the area about 20 years ago, long before the area became known as an arts district.
The Marriott will be the first hotel in downtown Akron since the Hilton Inn opened at Quaker Square in 1980. That was nine years after the old Cascade Holiday Inn — now the Akron City Center — opened off Main Street downtown in 1971.
The Quaker property, at Mill Street and Broadway, is now owned by the University of Akron, which has converted the rooms into student housing.
Testa said earlier he isn’t concerned about the potential competition from the proposed Greystone property, which he said would be focused on convention visitors.
“I think Akron attracts more people than either one could service on its own and the growth we anticipate will increase demand,” he said last year, shortly after the Greystone proposal was revealed.
Testa has said he also doesn’t see the under-construction Hilton Garden Inn on East Market Street as competition. This site is next to the new Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. headquarters and is about three miles southeast of the Northside District.
Katie Byard can be reached at 330-996-3781 or firstname.lastname@example.org.