WATERFORD — Looking to capitalize on housing for temporary and traveling workers in southeastern Connecticut, a New Jersey company is proposing to build a 122-room WoodSpring Suites hotel at the border with New London on Boston Post Road, it told the Planning and Zoning Commission on Tuesday.
Bill Sweeney, the attorney representing Princeton-based Seven Hills Hospitality Group, told the commission in an informal pre-application review that the hotel would replace four “blighted” properties at the gateway to Waterford — 16 and 18 Boston Post Road and 295 and 313 Willetts Ave.
“This is the first property driving in from New London into Waterford, and it certainly could be a lot better looking than it is today,” Sweeney said.
Sweeney said the hotel would use the “extended stay” model, with Seven Hills contracting JP Hospitality Management to run the hotel. With simple rooms, Sweeney said the WoodSpring Suites would be geared toward people with longer stays, often several weeks at a time.
He said the company caters to a “completely different customer base” than budget hotels and instead targets mainly corporate and governmental clients, and “cost-conscious” customers who want value without “unnecessary frills.”
“In many markets, especially here in Waterford, many of the customers for WoodSprings are business travelers on temporary work assignments,” Sweeney said. “Certainly this area of Connecticut is interesting and provides opportunities for [Seven Hills] because of the growing workforce at Electric Boat, the workforce at Pfizer, L+M, Dominion and all their subcontractors are bringing people into the area for work.”
Sweeney said the customer base includes people who are moving to the area for a temporary period and tend to shop locally. They typically have an occupancy rate over 80 percent, he said.
Commission Chair Gregory Massad, who asked Seven Hills to make the informal presentation so commissioners could note any initial concerns, said his main issue was the potential impact on neighbors in the mixed-use commercial and residential area.
Massad said he felt more comfortable with the idea after seeing the project’s presentation, which is currently being reviewed by the Conservation Commission for a wetlands permit.
“I think it’s a good use of this property. I would suggest that whatever you do, you take good care of the neighbors in terms of landscaping,” Massad said. “If we have some opposition to it, I’d like to at least feel comfortable that we’ve taken care of the neighbors in buffering their neighborhood or business from a major commercial operation.”
Commissioner Tim Conderino said they should consider the state traffic review currently underway for a 216-unit condo complex approved at 394 Willetts Ave., next to the 204-unit Waterford Woods complex.
Sweeney said they are required to consider all approved and pending projects in their traffic review, and would make sure the new condos were taken into account.