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New hotel hit roadblocks along the way, work under way now

LAUREN WOOD/THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Oliver Hawkins and other workers with Varnell Framing Contractors work Thursday on the second-floor floor joists in what will be the lobby area of the Holiday Inn Express being built on Canal Street.

NATCHEZ — After hitting a few roadblocks along the way, the Holiday Inn Express on Canal Street is on its way to be complete next spring.

Desai Hotel Group President Sunny Desai first purchased the land for the hotel in 2010 and initially thought construction would begin within a few months.

But issues with getting permits and site plan approval from the city delayed that plan, Desai said.

“We had a lot of things that came up at one time,” Desai said. “There were permitting issues, architectural problems and miscommunication with people who were in office.”

Part of the delay, Desai said, was because the city’s planning department had to send plans for the hotel to a third-party firm in Chicago for review to ensure the plans met the International Building Code.

The hotel being built on Canal Street will be four stories tall, and DDG Construction site supervisor Steve Nixon said the crew is two months into the building process. The hotel will have 81 rooms and is projected to be completed in April 2013.

“Most of the other cities we have worked with, all the review is done in-house,” Desai said. “Many of the changes (the firm) sent back were not feasible for our area, and they required us to make so many minor changes. That really holds up a project.”

Former city planner Bob Nix has said the plans for the hotel were incomplete when they were initially submitted to the city.

Desai said that Mayor Butch Brown was very helpful in getting the project approved and permitted once Brown took office.

“I think there was just miscommunication before with what exactly the city wanted,” Desai said. “We would get one answer from someone, and then another person wanted something completely different.”

Despite all the delays, Desai said he is happy to see construction on the hotel making progress.

“We are very happy with the City of Natchez and Adams County for what they’ve done for us,” Desai said “They have continued to provide us with any help we wanted. We had a little issue in the beginning, but that’s all in the past.”

The city and the county both approved tax increment-financing plans in 2011 to pay a portion of the ad valorem taxes generated by the hotel toward infrastructure improvements near the hotel’s site. Crews are currently working on framing the second floor, Desai said. The $5.5 million 81-room hotel should be completed in April 2013.