EUFAULA, Ala. — A Columbus hotel developer is planning to bring an iconic 19th century Eufaula hotel back to life with a massive makeover.
The Bluff City Inn is one of Eufaula’s cherished landmarks.
Because of fishing and the historic nature of the town there is already a tourist component to Eufaula’s economy. The city hopes the hotel’s renovation will recharge that.
RAM Hotels President Rinkesh Patel compared the hotel. built in 1885, to an old lady that just needed a little attention.
“It’s a nice piece of property,” Patel said on Thursday. “Let’s bring the charm back like it used to be. So that everybody is that passing by here is no longer passing by. They are getting lost in the day. They are saying I want to come back here. I want to check in and I want to stay on and experience it.
The threshold on the entrance of the Bluff City marks the year that this magnificent three-story downtown Eufaula hotel was built.
1885 — 135 years ago.
The city of Eufaula bought the hotel three years ago for $375,000 with the goal of putting it in the hands of a developer who would restore the hotel’s splendor.
They wanted something special because there are currently no hotel rooms in the downtown Eufaula area.
“This is a destination stay,” said Mayor Jack Tibbs. “This is not your average run of the mill hotel that is sitting on the side. People will want to come here just to stay here.”
He’s right. It sits on the edge of downtown, walking distance from the historic homes that given Eufaula its unmistakable charm.
The city didn’t have to look far for a dance partner in the renovation. RAM Hotels, based in Columbus with 25 properties in Georgia and Alabama built a Hampton Inn here in 2017.
RAM President Rinkesh Patel had his eye on the historic property every time he drove through downtown. He sees the possibilities and he has a mission.
“Let’s bring the charm back like it used to be,” Patel said. “So that everybody is passing by here is no longer passing by. They are getting lost in the day. They are saying I want to come back here.”
RAM has partnered with Campo Architects out of New Orleans to work on a project that is expected to go north of $10 million. The hotel has a 19th century feel with the wrap-around veranda on the second floor.
“Partnering with a historic architecture firm out of New Orleans is the first step to getting in, diving in and clearing off the layers and seeing exactly what we can do with it,” he said.
The ground floor of the hotel is currently in use as a restaurant. The top two floors are in disrepair and have not been used in years.
It will take two to three years to complete, Patel said. The hotel is expected to have 88 rooms available when it’s finished.
The city and RAM Hotels are putting the finishing touches on the incentives involved in the deal. Everything should be finalized within six weeks.
“Timing right for him and the city. It’s going to be a complicated project,” Tibbs said. “I know him and RAM hospitality when they get finished with this it’s going to be a showcase.”
Patel said maturity and business experience allowed him to look at this project differently. It will be the first historic renovation RAM has tackled.
“An earlier version of me just starting in the business just through it was just another building just passing by like everybody else did,” he said. “But as we are expanding more and more and developing our expertise I think we are developing a knack of identifying opportunities. This came into our eyes when the mayor brought it to our attention. It was a natural development of our own company where we are breaking barriers.”
The project has caught the attention of the Alabama Tourism Department.
“The type of accommodations that today’s travelers are seeking as changed in recent years,” said Alabama Tourism Director Lee Sentell. “People want smaller, boutique locations off the main road. They want to stay in a hotel or lodge that feels like a page from the past.”
That will be important to attracting tourists and business to Eufaula.
“This will become the cornerstone, the keystone, or the capstone, however, you want to say it to the downtown portion of Eufaula,” said Phil Clayton, economic development director for the Eufaula Chamber of Commerce.
And that will mean a lot to the historic downtown, said Ann Sparks, executive director of Main Street Eufaula and tourism director for the city of Eufaula.
“Eufaula is a triple threat,” Sparks said. “We have the lake, we have our homes and we have our downtown. This is just going to be a jewel in our crown.”
It’s all good, Tibbs said.
“Everything about it is good,” he said.