Developer Rajendra Patel says the key to a successful business is building a strong relationship with the community, and that’s what he plans to do as he pursues his latest venture, a seven-story hotel in downtown Jamaica, scheduled to open in 2013.
Patel bought the site, a 75-by-84-square- foot vacant lot at 89-34 162 St., in 2007, for $2.1 million, submitted plans to the city’s Department of Buildings the following year, and obtained work permits from the agency about two months ago.
The hotel, a Comfort Inn, which is expected to cost between $7 and $8 million, will feature a breakfast area, fitness and laundry rooms, and a storage area. It will have 72 guest rooms and is expected to provide between 10 and 20 jobs for area residents with experience in the hospitality industry, Patel said.
“My philosophy is to make a strong connection with the community,” Patel said. “It’s good for business and when the competition comes, you can stay.”
The New Hyde Park, LI resident works primarily in the manufacturing industry, but dabbles in real estate and owns another hotel, an America’s Best Value Inn at 1705 Linden Blvd. in Brooklyn. Patel attributes the success of that business to his strong ties to the community, explaining that he works closely with churches and police precincts in the area, providing a complimentary room for one night to those who need immediate shelter such as flood and fire victims or people involved in domestic deputes.
Patel said such assistance creates good word-of-mouth advertising, helps to polish his image and solidifies the hotel’s reputation as a reputable establishment. He added that he plans to do the same thing in Jamaica.
“It’s a style of marketing, but at the same time I’m helping people,” Patel said.
Since the project conforms to the commercial zoning of the area, Patel does not have to go before Community Board 12 for its approval, but when members found out from District Manager Yvonne Reddick about the plan at their Nov. 16 meeting, many were upset that Patel had not come to them anyway, to introduce himself and explain his plans.
“It’s the right thing to do,” Reddick later said. “It’s part of being a good neighbor.”
Patel said he is more than willing to speak with the residents, now that he is aware they want to know more about the project, and was to have met with Reddick on Monday. He said he will try to be as accommodating as he can to his neighbors, but made it clear that his construction plans are set in stone and he has no intentions of changing them or the way he intends to run the hotel.
Another concern for the board is the fact that Patel’s hotel will only have 11 parking spaces, which most at the meeting thought is way too few. However, the building would be located right across the street from a Jamaica First Parking lot.
Patel said he has spoken to representatives from the Greater Jamaica Development Corp, of which JFP is a subsidiary, and they have agreed to rent him 15 spaces monthly at a discount for his customers, who could then park there for free.
Andrew Manshel, executive vice president of the GJDC, said he thinks the hotel is a “great” idea and added that the group is not worried patrons will consume too many spaces in the garage, because it is equipped to hold 460 cars, and is never full.
Patel said he chose the location because it will provide a moderately priced option for visitors, is located between two major airports and is close to the Jamaica Avenue business corridor, where transportation, shopping, food and entertainment are readily available. But not everyone thinks it’s an optimum spot for such a business.
“It seems like an odd location,” said CB 12 Chairwoman Jacqueline Boyce. “Although I have not met with the developer yet for discussion, I wonder who would stay there. It seems to be a location that’s away from our major airports and might not attract people that are traveling for an overnight or week’s stay.”
Adjoa Gzifa, three-term immediate past chairwoman of CB 12, expressed similar sentiments, adding that hotels are better suited to main commercial strips. She believes that if the business were to fail, the owner would probably sell the land to the city and it would be turned into a homeless shelter — something that usually happens with unwanted properties in the district, which is already saturated with such facilities, according to Gzifa.
“Mark my words, when it happens,” she said. “I told you first.”
Patel said he knows the hotel industry very well and is sure his business will be a success. Asked if he would consider allowing it to become a homeless shelter, if things go sour, he responded, “I’m not even thinking about that.”