By JACK WEATHERLY
Suresh Chawla was already thinking bigger.
But when then Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump personally encouraged him to ‘think grand” that did it.
And so the Lyric Hotel and Spa has grown to become the West End District.
The Cleveland project was initially expected to cost about $8 million but it will now be $15 million, Chawla said in a telephone interview Tuesday.
“We just think that there is a need in Mississippi not only for a first-class boutique hotel, but a lodging facility which can cater to conventions, festivals, [and other] large events.” That will include a meeting facility that will be able to accommodate 400, he added.
They discovered that there is a demand for “small towns with a uniqueness,” which he says Cleveland offers with its downtown, Delta State University and the Grammy Museum.
Chawla credited the museum as the reason for building the Lyric when he announced plans the day the museum opened.
In addition to the 63-guest-room Lyric, the district will include The StateHouse, with 13 “upscale luxurious, southern suites,” and The Clubhouse with 24 studio-style suites with full-size kitchens.
As promised in the initial announcement, the 17-acre complex will include a four-star restaurant, the 8 West Grill, which will be built and staffed to meet AAA’s four-star standards.
It will feature local chefs, Chawla said.
“The Delta is known for its unique eateries, and we will create another special one,” he said.
Construction began a few weeks ago. A ground-breaking ceremony will be held Dec. 7 at 2 p.m.
Chawla met Trump at a reception at the Jackson Convention Complex in August.
Gov. Phil Bryant called Chawla from the Republican Governors Convention in Colorado and said that Trump had read about Chawla’s father, Dr. V.K. Chawla, who had a Ph. D. in agricultural chemistry and who had immigrated from India and established a family business – and wanted to meet his son.
The business now includes 17 hotels in six Delta cities.
Chawla told the Mississippi Business Journal that his father wrote Trump in 1988 and asked for a loan so he could build a hotel, after having been turned down by more than 50 banks.
The elder Chawla asked Trump for a loan. Trump called him at his convenience store in Greenwood and said that he was not set up to make such a loan but he was impressed with the story of an immigrant putting two boys through college.
He suggested that the elder Chawla apply for an SBA minority loan, which he got, according to his son.
The governor introduced Suresh Chawla to Trump, who was on the campaign trail, and Trump “asked me about our latest project, and I told him about it.”
“And he said, ‘Think grand,’” Chawla said.
“So that was kind of an inspiration to elevate our initial idea into something more special.”
“It’s not quite Trump Tower, but for the Delta, we’ll take it,” Chawla said.
In Chawla’s March interview with the Journal he said he was not a supporter of Trump’s.
Asked about that on Tuesday, he said, “Let’s just say that . . . I support any politician or any economic development leader that wants to see the Mississippi Delta improve.”
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