Hotel business is booming

Published 1:27 am Saturday, July 14, 2007

NATCHEZ — A Best Western will soon join three other hotels under construction.

The hotel will be built below the former Ramada Inn, between the Ramada’s entrance and the Mississippi River bridge, City Building Official Paul Dawes said Friday.

The site plans call for a three-story hotel with 60 rooms, Dawes said.

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The old Ramada Inn is being transformed into a hotel to accompany the future Emerald Star Casino, to be located at the foot of the hill.

The Best Western will be built on the road currently being built that will lead to the casino, Dawes said.

“We’re ready to issue the (building) permit,” Dawes said. “The problem is the contractor is not licensed with the state.”

Florida architect W. Charles Holland said that was a problem easily overcome.

“That’s just a formality,” Holland said. “The holding company doesn’t have a license in Mississippi, but my understanding is they have a subsidiary that does.”

Construction of the hotel should start in roughly four weeks, Holland said.

The building will look different from other Best Westerns, he said.

“It’s designed in context with what you see a lot of in Natchez,” Holland said. “The form and shape of the building, some of the colors — it’ll be a contextual building.”

The Best Western will join three other hotels being constructed in Natchez. A Country Inn and Suites is being constructed across Canal Street from the convention center, and down the road, a Hampton Inn is well under construction.

The Emerald Star group is renovating some of the Ramada’s buildings and tearing others down to rebuild.

“We don’t see anything but postive things in Natchez’ future,” Tourism Director Walter Tipton said. “We need the hotel rooms, no doubt about it.”

With developments like two more casinos and the federal courthouse on the way, Natchez can take all the hotel rooms it can get, he said.

“We’re quoting conferences at the convention center that need 500 and 600 hotel rooms within five minutes of the center,” Tipton said.

One upcoming conference wants more than 1,000 rooms.

“We’re not even close to being overbuilt,” he said. “And I believe even more hotels will be built, possibly in Vidalia.”