Darlington looks into bringing a hotel to town

Darlington looks into bringing a hotel to town

DARLINGTON, SC (WMBF) - The Darlington Planning Commission is trying to recruit new industry to the city, specifically, a brand new hotel.

While more than 50,000 people visited Darlington over Labor Day weekend for the Bojangles' Southern 500, with only one hotel and one motel in the city, many NASCAR fans found somewhere else to stay.

That, however, may change one day.

Lisa Chalian-Rock, Darlington's planning and economic development director, is hoping by taking it into their own hands, the city will be able to collect enough hard data to give to developers.

"(We want) to put that together in a packet for these developers to say, 'We need you, we want you, here's where you can locate,'" she said.

The city's planning commission created a survey at the end of July and passed it out to 300 businesses, churches and restaurants to get more than just census data, median income and traffic counts. According to Darlington officials, those numbers do not show the true need.

They are hoping the survey will show how many events they hold, the number of out-of-town guests and any lack of accommodations they have noticed.

Chalian-Rock said the city is open to franchise, chains or even a boutique hotel. She added one of Darlington's biggest businesses is Manheim, which is the largest auto auction in the Southeast.

"They bring in people from states away every week," Chalian-Rock said. "If we can quantify that number, we can really show developers you will have business if you come here."

The location the city believes is ideal and available is right at the intersection of U.S. 52 and the U.S. 52 Bypass near Interstate 95 and exit 164. It has open land for sale or lease, water and sewer service already available and the busy traffic numbers developers want to see.

"So we're trying to capitalize on that as much as we can, because when you don't have the accommodations in the town, you're not missing out just on the business license or the accommodations tax of that hotel," Chalian-Rock said. "When you go somewhere to stay, you typically eat and shop near your hotel. So we don't want to miss any of those dollars."

She added that Darlington Raceway, which is the home of the Southern 500, is right up the street.

"But it is one week a year, and that's understandable from a business standpoint that you want to see more demand than one week a year, which we are very happy to have and certainly would love a second race in the spring if they could bring that," Chalian-Rock said.

She and the Darlington City Council said that would add to even more economic development.

However, the city is confident they have enough going on to get a much-needed hotel.

The Darlington Planning Commission will continue to compile the survey data from last month, interview businesses they heard back from and then bring it to a hotel company. The commission said nothing will be presented officially to the city council until a developer is ready to negotiate.

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