A Boutique Hotel For Grand Haven

    GRAND HAVEN — Plans to transform the Grand Theatre downtown into a hotel that caters to leisure and business travelers and hosts business meetings and social gatherings, comes amid what’s seen as a shortage of lodging in the local market.

    The Grand Haven area trails neighboring lakeshore communities in the number of available rooms. The planned Grand Theatre Hotel along Washington Street would help to address the shortage, particularly for leisure and business travelers who want to stay downtown, near the waterfront, said Laurel Nease, vice president of tourism development for The Chamber of Commerce of Grand Haven, Spring Lake and Ferrysburg.

    A market demand clearly exists for downtown lodging, Nease said.

    Except for a bed and breakfast located just off the core business district, downtown is largely void of any lodging for travelers close to the waterfront, shopping and dining, Nease said. The boutique-style hotel that’s planned will help to fill that void, she said.

    “To experience the best of Grand Haven, you have to be in the heart of things, and people are asking for it,” Nease said. “Customers are asking for something right downtown.”

    Steve Loftis, who acquired the Grand Theater in 2000 after its previous owner closed it in 1999, plans to redevelop the building into a 60-room, four-story hotel with local developer Ross Pope of Red Stone Development Group. Loftis also owns the adjacent Dee-Lite Bar & Grill.

    The Grand Haven area has 556 rooms, including bed and breakfasts, in a lodging market that extends all the way to Coopersville.

    Holland, which has seen a significant increase in hotel development since the late 1990s, has about 1,200 rooms. Muskegon County has 1,850 rooms and has many more on the way with developers planning new facilities.

    With an occupancy rate hovering near 100 percent on weekends during the peak travel months, and weekday occupancy rates of 80 percent in the summer, the Grand Haven area is losing market share to other destination communities because travelers often have to look elsewhere for lodging, Nease said.

    The Chamber of Commerce has made the developing of new lodging in downtown one of its priorities. The possibility of additional rooms near downtown exists with the City of Grand Haven’s North End Redevelopment project just north of downtown, which envisions turning a former industrial area along the Grand River into a new neighborhood with a mix of professional offices, residential and retail uses.

    Some of the conceptual proposals recently submitted to the city from developers included ideas for a hotel within the redevelopment.

    Contributing to the comparative lack of new lodging developments in Grand Haven in recent years are concerns about the year-round sustainability of a new facility. Amenities planned to accommodate banquets, business meetings and social events such as wedding receptions, as well as the niche market the hotel will target, should help overcome that challenge, Nease believes.

    “They have the ingredients to make it successful,” she said.           

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