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The lone U.S. capital city without a functioning hotel may be on the verge of losing that moniker.
Florida-based Expo Italia II LLC President Achille Scialoia toured the boarded-up eyesore yesterday and voiced intentions to purchase the downtown property that’s been shuttered for nearly six years.
Grace Fernández, a consultant who apparently brokered the deal, said Expo Italia will purchase the property with an intent to restore the former 197-room hotel. Plus, Expo Italia intends to host trade shows and create a fashion outlet along with other business initiatives.
“They have signed a contract to purchase the property. I have spent three years convincing them to come to Trenton,” Fernández said.
Asked if the transaction represented a done deal, a hesitant Scialoia noted, “As of today? Yes.”
Unfortunately, the alleged deal included no appearance of City of Trenton officials as Mayor Reed Gusciora attended an out-of-town conference. He sent no representative, a significant detail considering that Gusciora and his predecessor Mayor Eric Jackson regarded re-opening the former The Lafayette Park Hotel & Suites key to downtown revitalization.
“We invited them but they did not come,” explained Fernández. She noted Willard Stanback, acting director of the Department of Housing and Economic Development (HED) supported the pending deal. Efforts to reach Stanback for comment failed.
The hotel was ordered closed by the State of New Jersey Department of Community Affairs in 2013 after managers failed to fix the sprinkler and fire alarm systems along with a number of other safety violations.
The original hotel opened in 2002 under Trenton Mayor Douglas H. Palmer as Lafayette Yard Marriott Conference Hotel. Initially, the hotel performed admirably before an exchange of owners eventually delivered deterioration.
“I wasn’t sure about making an investment in this property after my first visit several years ago,” Scialoia confessed.
The hotel remains an economic nightmare with numerous entanglements that need resolution. Edison Holdings purchased Lafayette Park Hotel at auction for $6 million in Nov. 2013. There’s been a lien on the property, a debt in back taxes that grew to $1.2 million, and almost $35,000 owed for sewer and water bills.
In August 2020, city officials activated foreclosure on the beleaguered property. With Gusciora out of town, a wait-and-see-what-happens-next seems appropriate. Any hotel initiative seems useless without significant city support.
Plus, the State owns one-fifth of the hotel property. If the land ceases to be a hotel, the state reclaims that portion of the property per a reverter clause.
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