Candlewood Suites opens
Adjacent property eyed for new hotel, gas station
With a new extended-stay hotel on South College Avenue open and serving guests, a second hotel project located directly next door is in the works.
Officials at SSN Hotels, a Wilmington-based firm that operates approximately 20 hotels in the region, held a reception last week to celebrate the six-story Candlewood Suites, which opened in early March.
The Candlewood Suites is the sixth hotel on South College Avenue and the eighth in city limits. A ninth is under construction at the corner of Library Avenue and Ogletown Road, and the University of Delaware is seeking a partner to build a hotel on its STAR Campus.
All 101 of the Candlewood’s rooms are suites that include kitchens, and the hotel is geared toward visitors staying for three days or more. SSN CEO Peter Bhai said he expects it to do well, considering its proximity to UD and major companies like W.L. Gore and Associates and JPMorgan, which often bring in employees or consultants from other locations.
“They all come in for extended periods of time,” Bhai said.
Now, Bhai and his management team will turn their attention to a project that calls for demolishing the adjacent Red Roof Inn and replacing it with a new hotel and a convenience store with gas pumps.
The plan, formally filed with the city late last year, proposes a four-story, 98-room Tru by Hilton hotel at the back of the property and a 5,060-squarefoot store with 12 gas pumps fronting South College Avenue.
The proposed hotel is smaller than SSN’s aging threestory, 142-room Red Roof Inn, which for many years was a Howard Johnson’s.
The Candlewood Suites and Red Roof Inn sit on a 4.65-acre site at the southeast corner of South College Avenue and Welsh Tract Road. The adjacent parcels that are home to Friendly’s restaurant and the recently opened Jersey Mike’s Subs are not owned by SSN and will not be affected.
Bhai said he sees the hotel property as a “gateway” to Newark and its location next to the Interstate 95 ramp positions it well to cater to travelers.
“The city of Newark is the perfect midpoint between D.C. and New York,” Bhai said.
Tru is a new brand meant to cater to millennials, and has a “very modern, contemporary look,” he said.
Hotels under the Tru brand, announced in early 2016, will include a large lobby where guests can work, eat or lounge together, a game room and other modern touches, like mobile check-in and digital room keys.
Meanwhile, Bhai sees the convenience store as a way to bring more people to the site.
“Of course, it will draw a lot of traffic, which is what we want,” he said. “We want to revive the gateway of getting into the city.”
“A Wawa and two new hotels will be a good draw for the city,” added Pinky Bhai, president of SSN.
However, no deal with Wawa or any other company has been finalized, they added.
SSN is currently working with the Delaware Department of Transportation on a traffic impact study and a plan to improve the entrance to the property. After that, the project will have to go through the city of Newark’s development approval process.
Tom Fruehstorfer, a planner with the city of Newark, said SSN has indicated to the city that it plans to seek variances from the board of adjustment for the number of required loading zones and the required distance between an access driveway and a residential district. However, the developer has not yet scheduled a presentation to the board.
The property is correctly zoned for the project, but SSN will need city council’s approval for a major subdivision and special-use permit for the gas pumps.
Peter Bhai said he’s confident that, once the DelDOT process is complete, the project will move forward.
“The city is very pro-development,” he noted.
The Candlewood Suites hotel on South College Avenue opened in early March. SSN Hotels, which owns the Candlewood, is now focusing on a redevelopment plan for the adjacent Red Roof Inn.
This map shows the proposed locations of a new hotel and convenience store with gas pumps on South College Avenue.