BY TOM DALTON
---- — SALEM — As a downtown developer works on plans to open a new hotel here, the Salem Waterfront Hotel is getting ready to expand on Pickering Wharf.
The operators of the 86-room Salem Waterfront Hotel recently completed an environmental review by the state and are making plans to file for permits with the city.
“We’ll probably be filing in the fall,” said Michael Rockett, a principal of the hotel.
The hotel owners plan to demolish an existing marina on Pickering Wharf and build a six-story hotel with 32 rooms, 14 condominiums on the top two floors, a 110-seat restaurant, a 60-seat lounge, and banquet and function facilities, according to plans filed with the state. The main hotel lobby would be relocated to this new building.
The $7 million project may include a pedestrian bridge between the Salem Waterfront Hotel and this second building.
Mayor Kim Driscoll said she was excited to hear that they plan to begin the long-awaited second phase of their waterfront hotel.
“They’re spending money and going forward with permitting,” she said. “That, to me, means they are very serious about advancing the project.”
Expansion plans for the Salem Waterfront Hotel were first announced with much fanfare in 2007 but were delayed by the economic downturn and family legal issues, notably a lawsuit Rockett’s mother filed against him and a brother.
Asked if the legal issues have been resolved, Rockett said: “No, it hasn’t resolved, but we’re moving forward with the permitting at this point.”
As the Rocketts move ahead with their plans, Somerville developer RCG is preparing for a hearing before the City Council on a $45 million development proposal at Washington and Dodge streets that currently includes a 100-room hotel.
The Maine Course Hospitality Group, which owns and operates 13 hotels in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts, is in talks with RCG about opening a hotel here.
First, however, the City Council must approve the sale of a section of a city parking lot that would be incorporated into the project. A hearing has been set tentatively for July.
The Salem Waterfront Hotel opened in 2004 following a long legal fight with the Hawthorne Hotel, which, at the time, was the city’s only full-service hotel. The Hawthorne had tried to block a second hotel, contending there was not enough business for two hotels.
Nine years later, both hotels are still in business, and a third hotel and now a hotel expansion are being proposed.
Rockett said he would welcome another hotel.
“Hotels are great for the city,” he said. “If RCG wants to build a hotel, we think that’s great. ... Any way we can keep (hotel guests) here in Salem, I think it’s great for Salem.”
Tom Dalton can be reached at email@example.com.