New Holiday Inn Moves Ahead in Abilene
Wednesday, March 30, 2022
The past two years have been the most trying experience many business owners have ever faced, but 2022 offers hope that economic development projects will resume their previous pace. Despite pricing increases occurring in March, count Anjan Ghosh Hajra among those business owners striving for a productive year, as he and his family seek to finish construction of a new Holiday Inn Express & Suites in Abilene, Kansas.
“With a massive amount of support from several Abilene organizations and my family, we are extremely thrilled to be moving forward with this project now,” he said. “Everyone involved learned that it really does take a village and recognized the importance of the project to the community.”
The new Holiday Inn Express & Suites will be a 65 room hotel with the latest amenities typically delivered by IHG, the iconic chain’s ownership group. It will be located across the street from the current Holiday Inn in Abilene, also owned by the Ghosh Hajra family, which will be rebranded once the new hotel is finished. An official groundbreaking ceremony was December 16, preceded by actual groundbreaking a few weeks earlier. The targeted completion for the property is the end of 2022, with the facility to include additional meeting space.
“We know the city wanted a convention center, so we have included multi-use and dedicated meeting rooms in the design,” said Ghosh Hajra.
Getting to the current project status has been a long, but educational journey for not only the Ghosh Hajra family, but the city and community as well. The project qualified for an essential tax incentive but resulted in a new experience and the prerequisite scrutiny necessary by the community. Participation by several city groups, including the Abilene City Commission, the Dickinson County Economic Development Corporation, and the CVB resulted in inherently extending original timelines.
“Their involvement was invaluable for a small town going through the incentive program process for the first time,” said Ghosh Hajra. “I was proud to be part of this group that reviewed each step intensely, which will make future projects much easier to complete.”
Completing the incentive program due diligence was unfortunately followed by the COVID-19 pandemic, adding more understandable delays. As a result of the extended timeline, the project included five feasibility studies and four appraisals. In combination with skyrocketing material costs and several funding extensions, the project budget increased by approximately $1.2 million, resulting in a current expectation of $9.7 million to deliver the new hotel.
The Ghosh Hajra family has owned the new and existing Abilene hotels, along with a Holiday Inn Express in Junction City. In addition to the tech company he owns, Anjan oversees the operations of the hotels, while his parents, Ashish K. and Mukul, are retired owners. The family has dedicated their business operations to their hotels, as his father put his entire retirement funding into the new hotel project.
“A traditional funding approach to this project would have resulted in it failing by now,” said Ghosh Hajra.
He also points to the continuous support his wife, Suruchika, has offered over the life of the project, through the impact of the pandemic and the purchase of a new laboratory for his tech company.
“I know it is not easy for a person to be so supportive of a multi-million dollar project in flux without a guarantee of success, in the midst of expanding our tech company,” said Ghosh Hajra. “We took a huge risk and my family’s support never wavered.”
The family turned to a new construction despite the excellent condition of the current two-story Abilene Holiday Inn because the IHG corporate brand requires a minimum of three stories. From a business perspective only, Ghosh Hajra said it would have been very easy to look for a project in a bigger city like Lawrence or Kansas City. But the entire family has very strong ties to the Abilene community, believing it is much more than what it appears, he said.
“Despite a small population, I have never seen a community with more heart,” said Ghosh Hajra. “The key for travelers seeking a place to stay is hospitality and the entire Abilene community, not just our employees, have it tenfold over other locations.”
The family owns several lots on the block where the new hotel is being constructed. Also on the block is the former historic Brookville Hotel, which closed in October 2020 due to the pandemic, but had been known throughout the Midwest for the family-style chicken dinners served there. Ghosh Hajra is actively supporting community investors working to reopen it due to his overall interest to help the local community. An example of that mindset is the fact his partnership recently purchased a building that recently shut down in Tescott, just to the northwest of Salina, that had been a community hub as a restaurant, bar, sundry shop and more.
“I am partnering together with local friends as Scion Properties to reopen that facility as The Lumberyard bar, grill and shop,” he said. “Just like the new Holiday Inn, that project is all about providing goodwill for the community.”