Apr 23

Proposed $70 million hotel for Gwinnett Center closer to reality


By: Curt Yeomans

Published: Wednesday, April 22, 2015 

DULUTH — The Gwinnett Center is one step closer to gaining a 300-room, full-service Marriott hotel.

The Gwinnett County Convention and Visitors Bureau’s Board of Directors unanimously agreed to recommend approval of a proposed ground lease for a five-acre site at the center. Approval of the lease by commissioners would clear the way for construction of a headquarters hotel. County commissioners are expected to vote at their April 28 public hearing.

Officials on the tourism board said the project represents a $70 million investment. All of that money is coming from North Carolina-based Concord Sugarloaf LLC and will not include any tax dollars, board members said.

“A hotel on site has been a part of our plan for a long time, but to get the opportunity to put in a quality product with no financial investment (from taxpayers) is pretty significant,” said Convention and Visitors Bureau CEO Preston Williams.

If the lease is approved by commissioners next week, it will bring about three years of work to fruition.

Williams also said its designation as a “headquarters hotel” means organizers of conventions can use it as a central location for their events while holding ancillary events at nearby spaces if the need arises.

The Marriott and two other hotels planned for the site are expected to provide about 581 new rooms for visitors to stay in at the Gwinnett Center.

One hotel, a Courtyard by Marriott, is under construction while the other hotel, an Embassy Suites, is expected to break ground in early June. One hotel will bring about 115 rooms to the area while the other is expected to provide another 166 rooms.

The Marriott is not expected to be completed for a few years, but it will bridge the Gwinnett Center’s convention space and arena when it is finished. It is expected to be a tower, which Williams said could be as tall as 12 stories.

The bureau’s chief officer said he trusts Concord Sugarloaf officials to know what they are doing based on expected investment.

“Hotel owners do not make decisions based off speculation,” Williams said. ”They make them based off knowledge of demand in the area.”

County Commissioner Jace Brooks said county legal staff worked with the Convention and Visitors Bureau and Concord Sugarloaf LLC to hammer out a ground lease for the project. He praised the work done to craft the deal.

“They’ve done a fantastic job and have been very thorough,” he said.

Brooks, like officials with the bureau, couldn’t resist going back to the size of Concord Sugarloaf’s financial investment and the fact that no concessions had to be made by the county to make it happen.

“A $70 million investment with no taxes, no financial obligation is unheard of,” he said. “It says a lot about how confident the hotel company is about what we’re doing over here.”