Convention center hotel moves forward in Gwinnett

A long-awaited hotel project on property owned by Gwinnett County at the convention center is moving forward with a vote this week by the Convention and Visitors Bureau.

At a meeting Wednesday, the group passed a resolution urging Gwinnett County commissioners to approve a ground lease that would allow for the construction of a 300-room Marriott, a headquarters hotel for the county. Commissioners are expected to vote to approve it Tuesday.

The hotel has been in the works since 2011, and since then has faced several issues.

Just this week, developer Nilhan Hospitality LLC filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The company and developer Chittranjan “Chuck” Thakkar had had several lawsuits filed against them related to nonpayment of debts. It was party to an unfavorable judgment in Florida over the summer.

While Nilhan was originally the main developer of the project, Concord Sugarloaf LLC has since taken on the lead role. Lee Tucker, an attorney for the Convention and Visitors Bureau, said he did not think the bankruptcy would affect the project.

The project also ran into trouble in February 2012, when commissioner John Heard, an architect, disclosed that he had served as a paid consultant for Nilhan since the prior month. He recused himself from discussions related to the deal and resigned his seat on the convention board.

The whole process, said Convention and Visitors Bureau CEO Preston Williams, has been “like pushing a rope uphill.”

“It has had its challenges,” he said. “While it has been frustrating … we, the county, the citizens, are going to have a quality hotel.”

Concord is investing $70 million in the hotel, which will be built at no cost to the county.

The project is one of three hotels in the works in the area. A 115-room Courtyard by Marriott on Satellite Boulevard broke ground in October and a 166-room Embassy Suites is slated to break ground by early June.