LENOX -- Moving a proposed Courtyard by Marriott from Pittsfield to Brushwood Farms in Lenox was the only choice he had, according hotel developer Joseph Toole.

But he's still hopeful that he can develop the site once wetlands concerns are addressed with the state Department of Environmental Protection.

His intention is to win approval of the parcel so it could be an office building, condos "or any number of things." The revised concept will involve a smaller building footprint and parking area.

"We'll still have a marketable piece of land," he told the Eagle. "I'm open to any number of options." Possibilities include sale of the site to another developer.

But, he declared, "I have no intention of building two hotels at the same time." If the Brushwood Farms project is approved by the Zoning Board of Appeals, "it will effectively take that off the table [at the Dan Fox site] as a hotel project."

Toole had initially proposed to build his Courtyard by Marriott hotel at the site on Dan Fox Drive, but he ran into stiff opposition from Vijaysinh Mahida, who's developing a Hilton Garden behind Guido's Fresh Marketplace.

"Once the site was challenged by my competitor, it looked as though I was not in control of the timetable," he said.

"I felt I had no other alternative but to pursue" the Lenox property, Toole said, disclosing that he has invested "well over a million dollars" in the Dan Fox Drive site.

But he's hoping for a resolution on wetlands issues that caused the state Department of Environmental Protection to delay work at the location. "We're proposing a modification of the setbacks," he said, to move any development away from the wetland.

"The DEP is not saying you can't develop the project," Toole stated. "It's saying we'd like it a lot better if you were a little further distance from the resource area."

Toole formed the Brushwood Farms Nominee Trust to pursue the Lenox project as sole owner. "There are no investors other than Joseph M. Toole, period," he said. It would be managed by Toole Lodging Group, with the 6.6-acre site owned by his Toole Properties, Inc.

The cost of building a Marriott in Lenox would be at least $10 million, he said, adding that "it's the almost undisputed position of everyone I've spoken to that the location is superior to Dan Fox, so I see that as a real positive. I also have a real comfort level in Lenox, and I see the Courtyard project as filling a void."

He emphasized that it would attract a younger, more active, tech-savvy age group, in line with the town's goal of diversifying its tourism base. Toole predicted that the hotel would attract travelers who prefer Marriott, thus filling "a latent demand."

"The area is being under-supported in terms of the hospitality business," Toole told the Lenox Planning Board this past week, citing market studies and the proposed purchase of his Hampton Inn & Suites by outside investors for $12 million to $13 million.

He asserted that the arrival of a Marriott would not cut into existing occupancy rates at other hotels, but would add more tourism because of brand loyalty and the preference of younger visitors for high-tech amenities.

While tourism would remain front and center, including bus tours, some business travelers would seek out the Lenox site, he predicted. If the Lenox project is approved, Toole would begin construction next spring with a projected opening of the Courtyard by Marriott in the late spring of 2015.

To contact Clarence Fanto:
cfanto@yahoo.com
or (413) 637-2551.
On Twitter: @BE_cfanto