Northampton hotelier pitches plans for new hotel at former newspaper site; council to consider tax break on Thursday

By ALEXANDER MACDOUGALL

Staff Writer

Published: 02-01-2023 8:02 PM

NORTHAMPTON — The former home of the Daily Hampshire Gazette may soon be the site of a new 109-room hotel that the developer says would bring 50 new jobs to the city.

Hotelier Mansour Ghalibaf wants to build an extended-stay hotel with two additional retail structures at the 115 Conz St. location, which he bought last June for $3 million.

If the project gains the relevant permits, it would be Ghalibaf’s third hotel in Northampton. In 2014, he opened Fairfield Inn & Suites next to the former newspaper building — a site he also bought from the Gazette’s parent company. He has operated Hotel Northampton on King Street downtown since 2006.

Ghalibaf said the old Gazette building’s situation, close to both Northampton’s downtown and Interstate 91, made it an ideal site for a hotel.

“The location is just one of the best in the whole area,” he said. “It’s very convenient, and this hotel is going to be very impressive.”

The two proposed retail facilities on the property, measured at 2,500 and 5,000 square feet, would be designed to accommodate other businesses in the area, such as restaurants, banks and nail salons, Ghalibaf said.

“I personally think these hotels are going to be welcomed by a lot of companies and a lot of individuals,” he said. “I feel this addition is going to even enhance Fairfield and Hotel Northampton.”

The City Council is expected to discuss Thursday whether to grant financial incentives for the project, which Ghalibaf is developing under the name Rankin Holdings LLC. Mayor Gina-Louise Sciarra is recommending the council approve a tax increment financing plan, or TIF. The city often grants tax breaks in return for a guarantee of capital investment and increased employment opportunities for local workers.

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The proposed TIF would last for eight years, with a 75% reduction in the tax increase for the developed property for the first year, followed by a 50% reduction in the second year, 25% in the third, with a 5% reduction for the last three years. The mayor’s office on Wednesday declined to say how much of a tax break this would mean in terms of dollars, saying it would reveal that amount at Thursday’s meeting.

According to the proposed financial order, the new hotel would be able to host at least 22,000 guests per year, bringing the city an estimated $4.5 million in tourism spending. It also estimated that new annual tax revenues would amount to $450,000, including property, hotel and meals taxes.

Additionally, a completed project would bring the number of hotel rooms in the city to 440, making up for some of the rooms — and associated tax revenue — lost following the closure of the Clarion Hotel in 2015. At that time, there were 547 rooms in the city, whereas today there are 331 rooms.

The mayor also argues that the extended-stay model will help alleviate pressure on the residential rental market, which has experienced decreased inventory and increased monthly rates partly due to the rapid growth of the short-term rental market.

The 115 Conz St. address had been the home of the Daily Hampshire Gazette since 1975. In its heyday it housed its own printing press and as many as 200 employees who made up the oldest newspaper in the state.

With the sale of the building, the paper moved to 23 Service Center Road, just down the street from its former home.

Alexander MacDougall can be reached at amacdougall@gazettenet.com.

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