One could say it's past time. By now, had an earlier proposal to build another inn been approved - admittedly, one of those "chain" style operations that seem to provoke so much controversy in certain places, like Manchester - the town and the area might already be reaping the benefits of more visitors staying in the town and more jobs for more people. For better or worse, the fates had other plans, and the alternative that has surfaced looks to be a nice fit for the community as well as coming with local ownership. Hopefully, this is the sort of story that comes with a happy ending.
We commend both the Village development review board and Clark French and his team for coming up with a compromise proposal that addresses some valid concerns the board had and yet is a commercially viable project in keeping with the overall look and feel of the Village. Assuming the remaining permit hurdles contained in the Act 250 process will be overcome without any major delays and the timetable for demolishing, constructing and opening the new 85 room hotel continues on schedule, an opening sometime in the summer of 2015 is anticipated.
That the area needs a large, new hotel is not in question. It may even need two, and by a fascinating coincidence, a second hotel proposal is also, at long last, moving along the permit process chain, although hurdles may remain. This Mediterranean-themed structure will also be a plus for the area, if it gets approved.
It may be hard to see it that way if you're an owner of an existing lodging establishment, and have struggled to make ends meet through a prolonged period of economic sluggishness.
But here's an example of how adding more room capacity to the town's inventory will, we believe, expand the pie rather than cutting it up into smaller slices. Beyond the jobs and other indirect economic activity new businesses like the two hotels in question spin off, it's long been clear that if Manchester is to attract big-time, or even semi-big-time, school sports tournaments and other sorts of special events, more and different lodging choices are imperative. If Applejack Field and the newly built Park House are to see a return on the investment that went into them, such events are necessary. If plans floated by Hunter Park to expand some playing fields are to come to fruition and be successful, it's the same thing; families will need or will want the lodging space, preferably in one building, to stay in. Right now, despite some attractive and cozy inns and motels, those sorts of facilities are not part of the line up.
Such facilities will also expand the range of choices for general visitors to the area, many of whom stay elsewhere, in Bennington or Rutland, for example, because it's more affordable. When they are spending nights in those places, they are probably not dining in local restaurants or visiting as many local retail shops as they might if they were staying overnight in a Manchester zip code.
At some point the marketplace will decide how many new rooms and beds the area can handle. For now, it's clear more, and of a different sort, are going to benefit the area.
The customer who is likely to stay in one of them is probably a different customer from the one who may stay at one of our existing motels or inns. The new construction, when finished, will simply offer more choices for more people, benefiting everyone. At least that's the hope.
So kudos to the Village officials who saw their way to approving the permit application, and to the investors who came up with the concept. Any other decision would have been difficult to fathom.