City, county and state officials joined representatives of the Foulger-Pratt Companies and Choice Hotels International on Tuesday to break ground for the hotel company's new headquarters in Rockville Town Center.
The company, which franchises more than 6,100 hotels worldwide, signed a lease in July to move its headquarters and its nearly 400 employees from Silver Spring to Rockville when the building’s construction is complete in 2013. The company, which is known for such brands as Comfort Inn, Clarion and Econo Lodge, plans to add 75 employees once it moves to Rockville.
Choice Hotels will occupy more than 130,000 square feet of office space in Rockville Metro Plaza II, which is being constructed by Foulger-Pratt. The Rockville-based development company also will own and manage the building at 121 Rockville Pike, at the corner of Middle Lane near Rockville Town Square and the Regal Cinemas.
Plans are also in place to build a Cambria Suites hotel across the street from the headquarters. The hotel, expected to accommodate 10,000 stays per year, will be used for employee and franchisee training and community, vendor and hotel developer gatherings.
The entire Rockville City Council, members of the County Council, County Executive Isiah Leggett (D), Sen. Jennie M. Forehand (D-Dist. 17) of Rockville and U.S. Rep. Christopher Van Hollen Jr. (D-Dist. 8) of Kensington were among those in attendance at the groundbreaking ceremony.
Mayor Phyllis Marcuccio was blunt about what Choice Hotels' presence will mean for Rockville: “They’re going to pay taxes,” she said during formal remarks.
Clayton Foulger, principal for Foulger-Pratt, thanked Marcuccio and the City Council for “their support and substantial political investment in the project,” which included $4.3 million in conditional loans and grants from the state, county and city contingent upon Choice Hotels adding jobs at the new headquarters.
“Even in these challenging times, these good people saw clearly and made [a] good choice,” Foulger said.
The poor economic climate is in Choice Hotels’ favor, said company President and CEO Stephen P. Joyce.
“What is a tough economic environment makes for a great opportunity to do something like this,” said Joyce, who credited the company’s “strong balance sheet,” the cheaper cost of construction in a down market and sponsorship from Foulger-Pratt and Wells Fargo.
The move comes after a two-year search for a new headquarters site that included Choice Hotels being wooed by other states.
In the end, the Rockville Metro station across the street and the proximity to to the restaurants and retail of Rockville Town Square made Town Center an attractive place to be, Joyce said.
“This place just seemed to have it all,” he said. “And we found the exact right project with the exact right partners and we couldn’t be more pleased with the final decision.”
In addition to bringing new tax revenue to the city, Choice Hotels is “a commercial operation, it’s a foundation group, it’s going to be here a long time,” Marcuccio said in an interview after the ceremony.
Clarification: The seventh paragraph of this article has been changed from the original version to clarify that the financial package was offered to Choice Hotels by the city, county and state.