PITTSFIELD -- Two local families prominent in the hospitality industry are joining forces to bring a Holiday Inn Express to South Street.

Mayur Desai, whose family owns the Comfort Inn at 1055 South St., and Mollie Toole, whose family owns Toole Lodging Group, announced the proposal Friday. It calls for razing the 57-room Comfort Inn and building an 80- to 85-room hotel according to the latest Holiday Inn Express design.

"We are really excited about working together to bring this inn to Pittsfield," Desai said. "It will be a nice project for the area."

Desai had announced early last month his intention to construct a new hotel on the site, but at that time he was considering a franchise agreement for a Marriott International Fairfield Inn & Suites. The current plan evolved, he said, as the two families collaborated and developed a good relationship during Desai’s search for a new franchise.

His search followed the revelation in December that Choice Hotels International Inc. had signed an exclusive regional agreement for its Comfort Inn brand with rival lodging developer Vijaysinh Mahida, who has said he plans a 100-room Comfort Inn & Suites hotel in Lenox or Pittsfield.

The term "hotel wars" emerged last year to describe the appeals and counter-challenges by the three Berkshires hoteliers.

Among those developments, a Courtyard by Marriott hotel is planned by Joseph M. Toole of Toole Lodging Group on Routes 7 and 20 in Lenox. And Mahida plans a 92-room Hilton Garden Inn at 1032 South St.


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, nearly across from the Desais’ hotel.

The Desais unsuccessfully sought to challenge a building permit for the Hilton project on the basis of traffic and parking concerns. And Toole also was involved in a challenge of the Hilton project, through a lawsuit that challenged use of a shared right-of-way to the building site behind Guido’s Fresh Marketplace. In February, Superior Court Judge Daniel Ford granted a defense motion to dismiss the suit.

And Mahida in February filed an appeal in state Land Court of zoning approvals for Toole’s Courtyard by Marriott project in Lenox. The Marriott project itself originally was planned for a Dan Fox Drive site in Pittsfield before being stalled by an environmental permit challenge. Toole then focused on a Lenox site.

Desai and Mollie Toole said Friday that Holiday Inn Express is the leading brand in its price range, just below Courtyard by Marriott and Hilton Garden Inn brands but above lower-priced chains and many family-owned lodging options.

"In its wheelhouse, it’s the strongest in the area," Toole said of the brand, adding that Holiday Inn Express will fill a niche currently open in central Berkshire.

The hotel will be a new design for the brand, referred to as Simply Smarter, she said, and the Pittsfield hotel would be one of the first constructed with those design features.

Desai said he met with city building department officials and heard no concerns about the project, which is in a zone allowing "by-right" use for lodging. The plan, he said, is to continue to operate under the Comfort Inn brand until the end of the tourism season, when the current building -- constructed and opened by the Desais in 1998 --will be demolished.

The Holiday Inn Express will be constructed over the following year closer to the highway, leaving more parking space at the rear.

The Toole lodging business, which also includes Joseph Toole’s sons, Lawrence and Luke, currently operates the Hampton Inn & Suites in Lenox and Yankee Suites in Pittsfield. The Desais also operate the Best Western inn in Pittsfield.

To reach Jim Therrien:
jtherrien@berkshireeagle.com,
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On Twitter: @BE_therrien