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Chico Patel (left) talks with colleagues during a construction site meeting.

Patels unveil $40 million mixed-use project across from their new Fondren hotel

By JACK WEATHERLY

It’s as if Chico Patel were trying to upstage himself.

Patel, co-founder of the Wealth Hospitality Group, formerly Heritage Hospitality Group, revealed a plan this week for Fondren Landing, a $40 million to $42 million condominium/apartment and retail project.

In the same conversation, Patel said the Homewood Suites hotel will open July 27.

The 125-room hotel is across State Street from the next project, which will be built on one acre.

“It’s badass,” Chico Patel said of Fondren Landing in a telephone interview.

There will be 140 to 150 loft-style apartments and condos, along with about 10,000 square feet for bars, restaurants and retail, plus underground parking.

Currently, Green Ghost Tacos and Fondren Guitars by Patrick are located in a building on State Street.

Mike Patel

Bruce Patel

Work won’t actually start till about 2022, Patel said. That’s because the Fondren Station Post Office in a separate building on the site has a lease that will have to expire.

Wealth Management will handle the construction, he said. Also, there will be underground parking for residents.

The  timing of the projects typifies the style Patel has established: move forward while others seemingly are still thinking about it.

Wealth Hospitality was formed in December by Patel and his cousin, Bruce Patel, who was chief executive of Tupelo-based Fusion Hospitality. Chico Patel’s brother, Mike, will be vice president for construction.

Meantime, the Homewood Suites is about ready to open its doors. Plans for the hotel were announced in August 2017.

Staffing is in place and “we’re ready to get this thing going,” Patel said.

Patel said in a text message that Wealth Hospitality occupancy rates are “creeping back to 70 percent. University markets are struggling big time since schools are closed and events are canceled.”

“Extended-stay hotels [in the Wealth group, such as Homewood Suites] are performing at a higher occupancy.” The group has properties in seven states.

Linda Hornsby, executive director off the Mississippi Hotel and Lodging Association, said that the state’s hotels are “faring better than we expected. There are lots of’ ‘staycations.'”

Chico Patel

The state’s average occupancy rate for the four-week period ending July 11 was 57.2 percent, down 13 percent from the corresponding period in 2019, according to an association report. Two months ago, the rates ranged from single digits to the low 20s. But since then the constraints on restaurants and casinos have been loosened, helping to feed hotels.

The coronavirus struck the nation in March, leading to a virtual lockdown of many businesses.

The national average the occupancy rate for the four-week period ending July 11  was 45.3 percent, down 38 percent from a year earlier.

Revpar, or revenue for rooms available, a key financial indicator, stood at  $28.97 for May in Mississippi, compared with $56.66 a year earlier.

National figures stood at $26.35 and $90.83, respectively, according to the association.

The cousins Patel have already collaborated on projects.

Fusion and Hospitality and other investors, for instance, bought the 200-room Cabot Lodge in Ridgeland for $3.7 million last year.

They will convert the hotel into a senior-citizen housing facility.

As of March, the new company had 59 open hotels with 5,213 rooms in Alabama, Texas, Oregon, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Louisiana and Mississippi, according to Asian Hospitality magazine.

 

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About Jack Weatherly