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Venice owners plan expansion, renovation

December 09, 2004|by JULIE E. GREENE

julieg@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - The new owners of the Grand Venice Hotel, Wedding and Conference Center are planning a $6 million renovation and expansion during the next two years, one of the owners said Wednesday.

Kemp Jayadeva, one of the owners of the Venice property, said land is available to lease for a convention center, but whether one is built is not the owners' call.

A group of Hagerstown business leaders has discussed plans to redevelop a large area in Hagerstown's East End and those plans have included a conference center, said Richard Phoebus, president of Hagerstown Neighborhood Development Partnership.

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While the general area of the Venice and former Ames shopping center are attractive areas for such a project, no site has been set, nor is a conference center a definite project, Phoebus said.

Jayadeva said he hopes to know by the end of 2005 whether a group wants to lease space on the Venice's 8.2 acres for a conference or convention center because it would affect plans to renovate the motel portion of the property.

Jayadeva, the Venice's general manager, is a member of Paradise Hospitality Group LLC, which bought the 431 Dual Highway property in June for $3.74 million, according to the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation.

Jayadeva said the property had deteriorated substantially in recent years and needs $6 million in renovations to comply with Best Western franchise requirements, Jayadeva said.

The partnership already has invested $400,000 to fix plumbing, air conditioning and heating systems, he said. That was not included in the $6 million.

Once the Venice completes $3 million in renovations by June 1, the hotel-motel can use the Best Western flag again, Jayadeva said. By then, the Venice could employ close to 300 people, he said. The hotel now has nine employees.

The new owners want to turn around the Venice's fortunes and restore it to the prominence it held under the Vidoni family's ownership or better, Marketing Director Steve Lanning said.

Ettore Avellino Vidoni started Avellino's Restaurant in 1949 and later opened the motel, said his son, Richard Vidoni. The hotel opened in January 1985, after his father died, he said.

The first phase of renovations includes painting, wallpapering, new furniture for the hotel's 124 rooms, and renovating the lobby and meeting rooms, Jayadeva said.

It also includes a $1.5 million renovation of the former Avellino's Restaurant, which will become a Perkins Restaurant and Bakery in February or March; reopening the liquor store and wine cellar; opening Jay's Lounge in January; and opening a coffee/ice cream shop and gift shop in early spring, Jayadeva said.

The $3 million second phase of renovations must be completed by Dec. 1, 2006, Jayadeva said.

That phase involves building a sixth story atop the Tower Building that would house honeymoon suites and meeting space. The meeting space's ceiling and walls might include a lot of glass so people can see the city, he said.

A theater that never was completed on the ground floor will be finished and could be rented as a movie theater or as meeting space, Jayadeva said.

Two indoor pools would be built alongside the Tower Building. The building along East Antietam Street that Wesco once leased would be razed and the motel would be renovated, Jayadeva said.

If a convention center were to be built on the property, part of the L-shaped set of motel rooms would be demolished, Jayadeva said.

A convention center also would prompt Venice officials to expand the Tower Building to more than double the number of hotel rooms, he said.

Jayadeva said Venice officials might add a fourth and fifth floor to the motel buildings. The upper floors would house suites for extended stays and the lower floors would be leased for office and retail space.

Instead of having 128 motel rooms, there could be approximately 100 suites and motel rooms, depending on the number of stories, he said.

The outdoor pool will be removed, he said.

The Venetian Salon and Spa opened at the hotel on Nov. 16.

Beyond the second phase, plans include a spa/yoga retreat and adding two smaller restaurants that would serve Thai and vegetarian dishes, Jayadeva said.

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