It’s about time.
After decades of plans and promotion, the long-touted downtown hotel has taken its first tangible step toward completion. Although it’s sad to see the landmark Mansour’s store come down, the building, which has been vacant for almost seven years, has become more of an eyesore than anything else.
Yes, the city sat on the property all of that time in hopes of what is now in progress. That potentially stifled other businesses from purchasing the property for different means.
Will it be worth it? Time will tell on that one.
Many people have asked why anyone would want to stay in downtown LaGrange. There are plenty of hotels on the periphery of town, near the interstate — including the impending Great Wolf Lodge on Whitesville Road, but that will draw its own clientele. Is downtown LaGrange an attraction that people will pay to stay in?
Officials obviously believe so. The hotel ties into the Sweetland Amphitheatre and revitalization plans for the south end of downtown, which is envisioned to include a skate park and some other amenities yet to be announced. All of these have been supported financially by the Callaway Foundation.
There is certainly potential. Just look at downtown now compared to 10 years ago. The change has been dramatic, and positive, even if there are still some things left to be desired — filling empty buildings and more variety of stores, among others.
Some have expressed frustration that LaGrange will be home to a new hotel, but has failed to attract other businesses, like big name restaurants and retailers.
However, city officials cannot directly dictate restaurants and retailers come to the area — that is up to the free market. A Steak ‘n Shake or a Target must be established by the corporation — but more people, more potential customers, are what attracts them to certain areas.
Incentives offered by the city, school board and county commission are aimed at creating business friendly environments, but until the free market makes LaGrange an attractive location for national retailers, we’ll have to be patient.
Will the new hotel be the further revitalization of downtown? Again, time will tell, but it’s a step forward, if nothing else.