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Hotel Developed By Church Group Stands To Profit From Proximity To Casino

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WAMC
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    A hotel project that took faith and perseverance has been completed just in time to take advantage of the opening of the MGM Springfield casino next month.

   Long before anyone knew a destination casino would be built in downtown Springfield, a Christian church-owned development corporation announced plans to turn a long-vacant office building into a boutique hotel and use the profits for church-run social service programs.

  Archbishop Timothy Paul Baymon, president of Epiphany Development Corporation, led an organization of Greater Springfield area clergy who actively campaigned against the MGM casino. The irony that the now finished hotel will benefit in part due to its proximity to the casino is not lost on Baymon.

  "Timing is good," said Baymon. "I am grateful to God and we are here."

   The hotel development plans were announced in 2006 and faced numerous obstacles on the road to completion earlier this year including the Great Recession, design changes, cost overruns, the bankruptcy of a mortgage holder, unpaid property taxes and fees, and still unsettled litigation between the development partners.

   Through it all, Baymon said he never lost faith the project would be completed.

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             " And we took a blighted building and turned it into something very beautiful," said Baymon standing in the lobby of the new hotel.

    And once the legal dust settles, Baymon said the hotel profits will help support church programs.

   "All of the profits go back into funding our other initiatives like our academy, our schools, our health programs," said Baymon.  " As you know grants are very difficult (to obtain) today, so this is one of the projects we are doing."

    Operated as a Holiday Inn Express, the hotel has 98 rooms, a fitness center, indoor pool, and conference rooms.  There are 25 employees.

    Mayor Domenic Sarno, who attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the hotel, said it is “strategically located” on State Street across from the MassMutual Center and within walking distance of the casino and Springfield Museums.

     "It is an opportune time to have another hotel going up in the city of Springfield with everything we have going on," said Sarno.

    Since the hotel opened in April, business has been very good including several weekends with no vacancies, according to general manager Sarabjit Kandhari.

    " We have very excellent reviews," said Kandhari. "People love the place. They don't expect it to be this good until they walk in and say 'Wow, this place is really good.'"

    The final cost of the project was $14 million, according to Baymon.  The original cost estimate was less than $10 million.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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