SOUTHWEST HOSPITALITY MANAGEMENT has finally opened its Fairfield Inn & Suites Fresno Yosemite International Airport in Fresno, California, but it wasn’t easy. The company had to struggle for years to get the project past the city’s approval process.
The 92-room hotel is the first to open at the airport in years, Southwest Hospitality’s founder Ash Patel said. Its guestrooms feature conveniences including lounge chairs, refrigerators, microwaves and coffee machines, and amenities include a swimming pool and fitness center.
And it could have opened a year ago, Patel said, if it hadn’t been caught up in piles of red tape.
“The city threw up a lot of hurdles and challenges, even though the project was fine,” he said.
For example, 30 days before the hotel was scheduled to open at one point the city’s fire marshal informed them that they needed to install sprinkler heads in the portico. Complying with the order cost extra money and time, Patel said.
“It delayed the whole project,” he said. “If the hotel had opened sooner, the city’s tax base would have gone up sooner, the jobs would have come sooner.”
Patel isn’t accusing the city of specific wrongdoing, but said there is a lack of parity in its approval system. “Right behind us there is another hotel coming and they’re getting it done much faster,” he said.
The situation is not that uncommon, actually. Many experienced hotel developers had their plans entangled by local regulations, especially in the Asian American community as many seek to transform and expand their family businesses from smaller, simpler operations into multilevel management and development corporations.
Asian American hoteliers are moving from mainly limited-service hotels to full-service hotels that require more and different permitting, Rahul Patel, a managing partner at Patel/Gaines law firm in San Antonio, Texas, who represents hoteliers during the municipal approval process told Asian Hospitality previously.
“You need food permits, you need liquor permits,” he said.
There’s also been a trend over the past five years toward building those hotels in high-barrier, high-density urban areas, downtown property that can be hard to come by or retrofitting old buildings.
“That adds to the complexity of what you’re doing,” Rahul Patel said. “Now you’re dealing with height restrictions, restrictions on material you can use. There are so many things we have to look at that are adding to the problem.”
Rahul Patel said hiring the right team, including experienced civil engineers and contractors, is key to successful development. And that expertise is most needed at the beginning of a project, when hotel developers, especially ones moving into a new, unfamiliar market, are most likely to encounter problems.
“Sometimes that little piece can have a big impact,” he said. “A lot of it is asking the right questions to the people on your team.”
Southwest Hospitality will manage the Fresno property, which is owned by Shiv Lodging. Ash Patel said his company also recently contracted to manage the 108-room TownePlace Suites by Marriott in Odessa, Texas, which is owned by TPSO, LLC.
The TownePlace Suites is located near Ratliff Stadium, University Texas Permian Basin, Wagner Noel Performing Arts Center, Odessa College and the Music City Mall. It is the second property Southwest Hospitality manages in the Odessa Midland Permian Basin region, known for its oil production.