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Company takes on new name, large Longview hotel development

By Ric Brack
April 27, 2013 at 11 p.m.


A hospitality company with deep Longview roots is embarking on what could be its biggest-ever hotel development in the city.

NewcrestImage, the Frisco-based successor of Image Hospitality of Longview, is planning to invest an undisclosed sum developing a full-service hotel and conference center in fast-growing northeast Longview.

The company said it would break ground within six months for construction of a Hilton Garden Inn with up to 135 guest rooms and a 10,000-square-foot conference center. The hotel would have frontage on Hawkins Parkway and Fourth Street at the northwest corner of a planned extension of Fourth north across Hawkins.

"We plan on being the destination hotel in the city," said Mital Patel, managing partner of Newcrest Image. "We'll be probably the only full-service hotel in the city."

In addition to a full restaurant and room service, the planned Hilton Garden Inn would offer an indoor pool, fitness center and outdoor patios, he said. The conference center would include a 9,000-square-foot ballroom and several breakout rooms.

"It will be great for weddings and small conferences," Patel said.

The conference and meeting facility is a feature that would set the Hilton apart from other Longview hotels; no existing hotel offers such meeting space.

However, plans also are being considered for a hotel and convention center to be built by a public-private partnership in South Longview. In that project, Lodging Host Hotel Corp. has proposed building a 150-room Marriott-branded hotel south of I-20 at South Estes Parkway and South Eastman Road. The hotel would be attached to a conference center to be developed in partnership with the city of Longview that could seat a 1,000-person banquet and include seven breakout rooms.

The public-private development is being studied as the result of a request for proposals from the city aimed at fostering such development.

When announcing the Lodging Host partnership in February, Longview officials said two proposals had been considered. They declined to identify or discuss the second one.

But Patel said, and city officials this past week confirmed, NewcrestImage submitted the second proposal.

"We had our site, presented our case for the north side," Patel said recently. "We believe it would have made more sense for the consumer. All the retail, shopping, entertainment, commerce is there. All of that is on the north side. So our plan is to go ahead with the project as a private development."

The Hilton's planned 10,000-square-foot conference space would be dwarfed by that available at Maude Cobb Convention and Activity Center, a 40,000-square-foot facility with five auxiliary meeting rooms.

Kelly Hall, president and CEO of the Longview Chamber of Commerce, said that while the Hilton's meeting space would fall short of serving major convention business, it would be a good venue for smaller events. And the full-service hotel, she said, is a badly needed addition to the city's lodging options.

"That's the number one request we get," Hall said. "A 135-room property is an excellent product to meet the needs of this market."

Before construction starts, NewcrestImage has hurdles to clear. Patel said design plans must be completed, the company must set up financing and get the property replatted and rezoned. The area currently is zoned for general retail.

NewcrestImage declined to identify the owner of the property.

According to city records, the area necessary to accomplish frontage on Fourth and Hawkins could have two owners: They are Gary VanDusen and Curtis Investment Longview LLC, said city spokesman Shawn Hara.

The planned extension of Fourth Street north of Hawkins Parkway will ease traffic congestion in the quickly growing area and open more of a landlocked area to development.

Other developers have expressed interest in the area mainly for retail development.

For NewcrestImage, though, the planned North Longview project is only one part of its efforts in the city. The company also is planning to build a new Hampton Inn in South Longview at Eastman Road and I-20. It will replace a Hampton Inn the company owns one exit over on I-20.

The developments continue a long history for the company in the city where it got its start in 1979 with the Patel family's purchase of the Sunset Inn at 1308 W. Marshall Ave. In 1991, it grew with its acquisition of the Stratford House, 3100 Estes Parkway.

Over the years, the company that came to be known as Image Hospitality operated and managed five hotels in Longview, and spent millions developing them. Its first franchise hotel, the Hampton Inn along I-20, opened in the early 1990s. That began the company's transformation from a mom-and-pop operation to a professionally managed one that develops and manages hospitality properties. The company's success in Longview led it to expand to other Texas cities, including Marshall, Tyler and Lufkin.

Now, the company has a new name, as well.

Formerly known as Image Hospitality, the company has formed a new partnership with joint venture partner Newcrest Management to form Frisco-based NewcrestImage.

"Last August, we combined both of our groups and sold off 20 hotels," said Patel, a second-generation participant in the family business. Those included properties in Longview, Tyler, Lufkin, Arlington, Wichita Falls, Texarkana, Huntsville and Waco. "That gave us the opportunity to recapitalize and get our development going again.

In addition to the new hotels on the north and south sides of Longview, NewcrestImage is in the process of developing properties in Bryan-College Station, Grapevine, Midland, Texarkana, Tyler, Waco, and Oklahoma City.

Though the company now is based elsewhere, Patel said Longview remains important - and not just because it does business here. The company started here, and many of its leaders were born and reared in Longview.

"That's where we started off, in Longview, back in the late '70s," Patel said. "We're just continuing to bring developments, and creating jobs. ... We're just glad to be part of a good community that's helped support us through the years."

Hall, of the chamber, said the Patel family has had a positive influence on the city.

"NewcrestImage has been a longtime supporter of and investor into the Longview market," she said. "They have met the needs of this market."

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