Two new hotels coming to Demopolis

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 2, 2005

Here we grow again.

Two more nationally-recognized businesses have chosen to expand onto Demopolis’s flourishing stretch of Highway 80 West. Interestingly, the two will be competitors: one is Best Western Hotels, and the other is Econo Lodge Inn and Suites.

The Econo Lodge will be nestled alongside Smokin’ Jack’s B-B-Q and in front of the future Wal-Mart SuperCenter site. The Best Western won’t be far away, though. It will be located almost directly across the highway, neighboring the Alabama Central Credit Union.

“Of course it’s very good news for the city,” said Demopolis Mayor Cecil P. Williamson. “It shows that people outside the city are noticing what we have here and are willing to come and invest in our city.”

What Demopolis has is a section of highway growing by leaps and bounds. Spearheaded by Wal-Mart’s move into its new SuperCenter building, 80 West has seen a number of businesses either relocate or sprout up on either side of the highway in recent months. It’s a situation that, as Williamson points out, has not gone unnoticed by others in the area.

“I just felt that Demopolis has had so much tremendous positive publicity recently,” said Jason Wood, current owner and operator of Livingston Motel and future operator/partner of the Econo Lodge. “I have been so impressed with the growth in Demopolis. We’ve got the property and we’re hoping to move forward soon.”

Wood acknowledged that the Wal-Mart SuperCenter was one of many recent steps forward by Demopolis that made opening up the Econo Lodge appealing.

“The SuperCenter, the new junior college…these really add to the community. They’re all positive publicity, they’re all factors. Demopolis has been kind of sleepy a long time, but now it’s coming alive.”

Tom Osborn, Best Western’s Regional Director of Development and a Birmingham resident, said that Demopolis’s character helped make the opportunity to expand here that much more appealing.

“We feel it’s a win-win situation for both the city and the brand,” Osborn said. “Towns like Demopolis are the towns we strive to be in.”

Osborn said that Best Western, which has previously operated in Demopolis, was happy to return to the area.

“We’ve been down there before,” he said, “and we’re excited to be back with a new product. With the growth we’re seeing, and the lake and the seasonal business with that, we feel this is a good opportunity.”

Both Wood and Osborn said that while it was a good opportunity for their business, it was a good opportunity for the city as well. Osborn indicated that “local contractors” would be involved in the Best Western’s construction, and Wood will be working with Ben Sherrod, recent recipient of the Demopolis Chamber of Commerce’s Lifetime Achievement Award, as his general contractor.

The Econo Lodge appears likely to open its doors first. Wood is “shooting for the next four to six weeks” to begin construction, with a grand opening tentatively scheduled for six-to-eight months after that. Osborn said the Best Western would “hope to open in Spring of next year.”

When asked about the irony of two hotels erecting “Coming Soon” signs across the road from each other on the same weekend, Wood downplayed the idea that the two were in any kind of race or direct competition.

“We knew the Best Western was coming in,” he said, “But I think they’ll be in more direct competition with the Holiday Inn. Our price range will be blow those two, and above downtown.”

Whatever the price range, Williamson said it would be good for Demopolis.

“More lodging taxes, more taxes period, means more benefits for the city,” she said. “What excites me is that people are seeing what’s here and are willing to come and partner with us.”

Wood, who wished to thank Demopolis’s Jimbo Ward for his help in finding a location, says that’s exactly what he wants.

“Y’all have just got it going on,” he said. “That’s what I’m trying to get involved in.”