The Cafaro Co. is banking on strong demand for hotel space - something expected to increase as oil and gas shale workers move into the area - to draw customers when the Residence Inn by Marriott opens late next year at the Eastwood Mall.
And Cafaro co-president hinted another major announcement may be on the way.
"Many have asked why put a hotel at a shopping mall. The answer is the Eastwood Mall Complex isn't a typical shopping mall," Anthony Cafaro Jr., company co-president, said Wednesday during a news conference to announce the hotel's brand name and operator.
Anthony Cafaro Jr. talks about location of planned hotel and banquet center
Noting that Travel & Leisure magazine in December ranked the roughly 200 store complex as the nation's 30th most visited shopping mall, Cafaro called the complex his family started in 1969 "the Mahoning Valley's one-stop destination for dining and entertainment. We hope to position the mall not just as a regional destination but a national destination."
Trumbull County could be in the running for an even bigger role in the Cafaro real estate empire. Cafaro said the longtime Youngstown-based company is "actively considering the possibility of relocating our offices."
He said no decision has been reached as to where it might go if it moves from its Belmont Avenue site, but that a decision may be made later this summer.
The Cafaro Co. spokesman Joe Bell discusses Wednesday the Youngstown-based firm’s plans to build a hotel and banquet center at the Eastwood Mall in Niles. Tribune Chronicle / Larry Ringler
For now, the company is focusing on projects that spokesman Joe Bell said will be "a game changer."
Besides the four story, 103 all-suites hotel, the $14 million investment include a banquet and conference center in the same Dillard's concourse as the hotel. The center is expected to open sometime after the hotel's debut in late 2013.
Fargo, N.D., based TMI Hospitality was announced Wednesday as the hotel operator. No operator for the banquet center has been determined. Cafaro said interested parties should visit www.eastwoodmall.com.
In addition, an upscale Rocky Mountain lodge-styled restaurant, Firebirds Wood Fired Grill, is scheduled to make its Ohio debut later this year at the front south concourse at the Dillard's end of the mall.
The purpose of a suite-based hotel is to offer home-like comforts to customers planning to stay for as long as a year, said Dave Mangus, a Canfield resident who is TMI's area director.
"This property has everything," he said, listing shopping, dining, entertainment, minor league baseball and more.
Mangus said the company's Boardman location has better than 80 percent occupancy, saying, "We expect to the same here, maybe a little better."
The company plans to hire 35 to 40 workers, starting with management in the summer of 2013. Opening is slated for summer or fall that year.
Cafaro said the project has been in the planning stage for five years, before the recent economic uptick created by the Marcellus and Utica shale gas boom.
"There's great demand for hotel rooms in Trumbull County and the Mahoning Valley," he said.
Work on the hotel will begin in the next few weeks, Cafaro said. A major task will be to reroute telephone and other lines in the service area behind the mall to allow for footers to be dug, probably by October, he said.
In addition, storefronts lining the Dillard's concourse that are now covered with blueprint-type paper will be filled. The stores, however, will be only about 40 feet deep instead of the usual 140 feet because the banquet center will be located behind them, Cafaro said.
Visitors will access the hotel and banquet center by walking down the northeast concourse, where the mall office, LensCrafters and other businesses are located.
They will turn before LensCrafters down the hall that leads to the mall offices, then will turn left to enter the banquet center or right to the hotel, he said.