After next week's Town Council meeting, the dream of having a hotel in West Hartford will be one step closer to reality.
In his "" at last week's Chamber of Commerce luncheon, Mayor Scott Slifka stressed the importance of building on West Hartford's "mini downtown."
"We need to do it, we need to get serious about it," Slifka said during his address, stating that the plot of land across from the on Raymond Road would be an ideal location for a hotel.
The Town Council is now prepared to adopt a resolution, proposed by all nine council members, to "Establish a RFQ/RFP Process for the Development of a Hotel in West Hartford."
The plot of land declared by Slifka and Community Services Director Rob Rowlson as an ideal location is owned by the Town, a former Public Works storage area and parking lot which is currently a small park. The land was turned into a park following the construction of Blue Back Square, to compensate for the loss of green space behind Town Hall.
"That space has had five years as a park, but it hasn't been utilized," said Slifka, noting that the courtyard area outside in Blue Back Square has instead become a primary congregating spot. "The park is beautiful, but it's a step removed," Slifka said.
The Raymond Road land owned by the Town is "one of the most valuable pieces of real estate in Greater Hartford," said Slifka. The Town's Grand List would be positively impacted by locating a hotel on that land, and it would also address something that is very much lacking in West Hartford.
Much of was developed as a public-private partnership, but Slifka said this process will be different because it is much smaller in scope, there is only one parcel of land, and it is completely owned by the Town. "We're really looking for someone to construct and operate one facility for one use."
There have already been inquiries, both from large operators and entrepreneurs, and Slifka thinks the timing is right to explore the available options, understanding that nothing may result from the RFP/RFQ process.
A hotel for West Hartford has been talked about for years, but Slifka said that the market for such projects seems to be picking up. When the – soon to be home to Rockville Bank and a smaller Post Office – was put up for sale, many hoped a hotel would be built in that space.
"One glaring hole in this market remains a hotel – a hotel with meeting space," said Slifka.
"Our target market is visitors doing business in downtown Hartford but also in West Hartford, who already come here to shop and eat; it's visitors who have family in West Hartford," Slifka said. Those people currently stay in Farmington, Avon, or Hartford.
"We don't want to lose those people, plus a hotel would be a perfect fit for the neighborhood and provide a great space for meetings," said Slifka. Right now, the and provide the largest spaces for events in West Hartford, but there is a perceived need for a larger meeting/event space as well.
Zoning requirements would limit any hotel building to four or five stories at the most. "It would be smaller-scale, not like a 20-story Marriott," Slifka said.
"We're not just looking for any hotel," said Slifka, who said the ideal would be a "boutique hotel" rather than a "cookie cutter" property.
"Blue Back Square is first class and unique, it feels like a neighborhood, and we want a hotel that will be something special."
Slifka said it's too early to discuss a timeframe for this project, but said that he wants to start the process as soon as possible. "We want to strike while the iron is hot, but do it the right way."
"This process is about supply and demand, and we want to meet that demand."