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Hotel and restaurant coming to Troy

The abandoned husk of a Wal-Mart building in Troy Plaza is being transformed into something positive - and this time it's not a rumor.

After years of speculation and innuendo, developers confirmed Monday that a hotel and chain restaurant will be constructed in the Troy Plaza. A Hampton Inn and Ruby Tuesday's will soon call Troy home, say sources associated with the deal. The Troy Plaza is located at the corner of Highway 231 and George Wallace Drive.

&uot;We're excited to see them coming in and cleaning up that area,&uot; said Troy Mayor Jimmy Lunsford. &uot;We're happy to see them develop that corner, which is one of the featured areas of Troy and we expect to see them fill up that area quickly with retail stores.&uot;

A representative for the Troy construction company Bishop and Company, LLC, was demolishing the skeleton of the old shopping center Monday morning. As equipment ripped through the exterior of the buildings and the roof collapsed in a plume of dust, he confirmed that the two chains would be coming in.

&uot;All this asphalt is going to have to come up,&uot; he said, gesturing towards the vast expanse of parking lot heaped with broken air conditioning units and metal latticework once used to support the ceilings of the buildings.

He outlined how parking lots would become roads and reminisced about how the shopping center once housed a Winn-Dixie and a Big K store that eventually turned into Troy's first Wal-Mart.

Burton Green, lead developer of the project and owner of Green Land Company, said the demolition would last for a few days and said he had sold off the land to buyers, but wouldn't confirm any details.

A representative from Ruby Tuesday's said that the Troy location had not yet been entered into the developmental planning database, but acknowledged the efforts to open a new store.

The Hampton Inn will be run by an Auburn-based group. Tom Hunt, president of The Hotel Group, confirmed that the company will be owners and developers of the hotel portion of the Troy Plaza property.

&uot;It's going to be an 82-room, three-story building: a typical Hampton Inn franchise,&uot; he said. &uot;We have another Hampton in our hotel group. It's a great brand for the traveler and for the owners.&uot;

The group, which franchises hotels for Hilton, owns four hotels currently and has two under construction in Montgomery in addition to the Troy project. The Hampton Inn is owned by Hilton.

Tori Walsh, a public relations representative for Hilton, described the hotel as &uot;in the planning process but not currently scheduled as to when construction will begin.&uot; She did say, however, that the hotel is not forecast to open until Dec. 12, 2004.

Hunt said the allure of Troy State football games, which will soon be played in a stadium expected to attract tens of thousands of visitors to Troy each fall, would be nice but ultimately were not decisive in the company's decision to open a hotel in Pike County.

&uot;That's not what brought us to Troy,&uot; he said. &uot;We know how to run hotels in college towns. We have two in Auburn, but football is, at best, maybe 12 or 14 nights total. Maybe that's a piece of the puzzle, but Troy has other things going for it.&uot;

Hunt did cite Troy State as a major attraction.

&uot;TSU has a lot going for it in athletics and academics,&uot; he said. &uot;It's a very up and coming university. They could have camps and meetings and Troy is a great stop on the way down to the beach. Industry is not going to be the main thing in Troy, but it is growing. We like secondary markets. We think Troy was ready for something new.&uot;

The Hampton Inn will occupy approximately two and a half acres of the 13-acre property.

&uot;It's a nice lot. A nice road is going to be put through there and we're doing all new landscaping and putting a wall around that electrical substation on the corner,&uot; Hunt said.

In addition to the hotel and restaurant, there will be a 24,000 square foot strip mall, which is expected to house several national chains. There will also be a couple of stand alone restaurant sites available for future customers.

Stephen Stetson can be reached at stephen.stetson@troymessenger.com.