New hotel, conference center in the works for Oak Ridge North

The city of Oak Ridge North is in the process of approving plans for a hotel project that could bring more revenue and give the city a stronger identity, said Susan Cates, director of economic development for ORN.

The design plan for the 100,000-square-foot, 184-room Crowne Plaza Hotel places the development south of Robinson Road and east of I-45, near the Sears Home Appliance Showroom. Groundbreaking on the hotel can be expected either by the end of this year or the start of 2016, with the project taking 18 months to reach completion, Cates said.

“The most exciting thing about this project is that this property has just been distressed in the past, and this hotel is going to change the front door of Oak Ridge North,” Cates said. “How the city is perceived will be different and people will now take a second look at what is east of I-45.”

Cates said all of the businesses located on the site of the upcoming hotel have been notified and either have already closed or will be closed by the time construction starts. The city is not relocating any of the businesses since the hotel is considered a private real estate transaction, and ORN does not have ownership of the property, she said.

“Most of the businesses have moved already, and all have been given notice in advanced,” Cates said. “The Goodwill store is the only one [that] hasn’t moved yet, and they still have time.”

The hotel project was first brought up in March 2013, when the city began talks with the developer of the project. Cates said the reason the hotel plan took awhile to get established was because a location was still trying to be determined.

“The developer was just finally able to secure a tract of land,” she said. “We’ve been talking about the hotel for about two years.”

An agreement between the city and developer, doing business as MH2A, LLC, was approved by the city council July 27. The agreement included the creation of an economic development program to begin construction of the hotel and conference center.

“The city is partnering with the developer of the hotel because [the city] also wants the conference center,” Cates said. “The conference center will be a benefit to the hotel since a lot of hotel occupancy tax and revenue comes from that.”

A preliminary plat for the hotel and conference center has already been approved by the city council, and it will vote Aug. 10 on the final plat.

The upcoming hotel is one of several developing hotel projects in The Woodlands and Shenandoah area, with Embassy Suites by Hilton expected to open in Hughes Landing in December, The Westin The Woodlands opening in January 2016 in Waterway Square and Holiday Inn & Suites opening in early 2016 in Shenandoah, the city’s first full-service hotel.