BY TOM DALTON
---- — SALEM — A regional hotel developer has its eyes on Salem.
Maine Course Hospitality Group, which owns and operates 13 hotels in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts, is in talks with Somerville-based developer RCG about opening a 100-room hotel here.
“We think it’s a great market,” said Sean Riley, president and CEO of the Freeport, Maine, company. “We think (Salem) is on the upswing.”
Maine Course hopes to be part of the $45 million proposal RCG announced earlier this year, a mixed-use development in a planned five- to six-story building at Washington and Dodge streets that would include apartments, offices, retail stores and a 275-car parking garage.
The hotel would have a national brand and reservation system and target families and business travelers, Riley said.
Last week, RCG submitted a bid of $275,000 to buy part of the Riley Plaza East parking lot and incorporate it into a larger adjacent plot it owns along Dodge and Washington streets. As part of the deal, RCG agreed to incorporate into the garage the 38 metered city parking spaces that would be lost.
The proposal will go to the City Council, which must approve the sale of public land. No date has been announced for a hearing.
Maine Course owns and operates nine hotels in Maine, including the Best Western Freeport Inn and a Courtyard by Marriott in South Portland. It also has three hotels in New Hampshire and one in Massachusetts, the Rockport Inn & Suites.
Although it has several independent hotels, most of its properties are affiliated with national brands such as Best Western, Marriott, Hampton Inn & Suites and Homewood Suites.
The company has five hotels under development, according to Riley.
If Maine Course ends up being part of the RCG development, Riley said it will be important to have a prominent location within the project site. The final layout of the development is crucial, he said.
In a letter submitted with the RCG bid package, Riley wrote: “A critical component in our interest is having the visibility and frontage afforded by being located at the corner of Washington and Dodge streets. ...
“Further, the contemplated construction of on-site garage parking ... that would be adjacent to our desired hotel is another reason we are very interested in developing a hotel at this location.”
Riley has visited downtown Salem and has taken a close look at RCG’s most recent development where Tavern in the Square opened.
“That’s a great ... for that whole area,” he said of the restaurant. “We think we could be another anchor in that area.”
Riley is aware there are two hotels in downtown Salem, the 86-room Salem Waterfront Hotel and the 93-room (including a four-room guest house) Hawthorne Hotel, but thinks there is room for more.
“Typically what happens is everybody just raises their game. ... The customer has a better experience and more people come and talk about Salem,” he said. “... We were one of the first hotels in Freeport, and now there are seven or eight.”
Tom Dalton can be reached at email@example.com.