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Pledge made to bring business to Grambling

Out-of-state investors present plan to establish hotel, restaurants
Friday, April 12, 2024
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GRAMBLING — A group of out-of-state investors has pledged to bring an extendedstay hotel, several restaurants, and a dry cleaners to or near Grambling.

Representatives of Black Gems Hospitality and Black Gems Food Service spent over an hour Wednesday acquainting the Grambling City Council with the proposal project that would also include sponsoring the hospitality program at Grambling State University.

Investors said they see the multi-faceted plan as a way to address what they claim is a lack of on-campus housing at GSU and food insecurity both on campus and in the community.

They said the businesses would also be a needed economic boost to the city.

“This is going to happen. There’s no ifs, ands or buts,” Kevin Hicks, a New York partner in Black Gems Hospitality and Black Gems Food Service, said.

The $20 million-plus investment centers on the hotel.

Half of the 120 to 150 rooms would be suites suitable for colleges students, and the other half regular hotel rooms, Hicks said. He said the investors have been talking with Wyndham Hotels and HomeTowne Studios by Red Roof.

Though most of the businesses are expected to be built within walking distance of the campus, Hicks said the hotel will likely be built outside of Lincoln Parish in Arcadia on a site near I-20. Arcadia is about 15 miles west of Grambling.

If that happens, a shuttle will bring GSU students the roughly 18-minute trip from there to the campus, Hicks said.

What’s next is investors will further study the demographics of the area and try to match that with the brand hotels and eateries that are the best fit, Hicks said.

“Grambling will be like a light shining on a hill for the rest of the folks to see,” investor Douglas Sapp said.

Sapp, who lives in Houston, is an Arcadia native whose family has a long history in the Grambling-Arcadia area. It’s Sapp’s family property the investment groups are eyeing for the proposed businesses.

Most of the property is on Brown Street, adjacent to the GSU campus. That’s apparently also the alternate site for the hotel.

The investors said the three restaurants, one of which would be near the hotel, would create about 90 jobs, most of which would be filled by students, and the dry cleaners would create about 30 jobs.

Hicks said he hopes to have one of the restaurants and the dry cleaners operational by this fall.

City officials and some of the partners are expected to meet again probably within a month.

“We just need commitment,” partner Chris Baccus, from Los Angeles, said.

The investors hinted they will ask the city to create a tax increment financing district that includes the Brown Street property. TIFs are economic development tools that, depending on how they’re created, can mean tax incentives for developers.

Council member Jerry Lewis said he wants more information but likes the hotel idea. The student rentals could help sustain the hotel in the slower travel seasons, he said.

Mayor Alvin Bradley called the investors’ plan “a win-win” that will attract other businesses to Grambling.

“What happens good in Grambling, it happens good in Lincoln Parish,” Bradley said. “This the beginning not the end. We’re just beginning in the city.”

Hicks said his investment group is doing similar HBCU-centered projects across the country. He said Grambling was picked based on what he said was “considerable need” for housing and food options on campus.

Hicks said investors may eventually develop more than the hotel, eateries, and dry cleaners.

“As we see that there are other needs we need to address, we are going to try to do that,” he said.