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Copeland's Comes To Town, Convention Center Moves Forward

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Arkansas side names investor

Doctor to back hotel/convention center; Copeland’s to call Crossroads home

By: Kristie Avery - Texarkana Gazette - Published: 01/27/2010

Two big announcements concerning the Arkansas side’s Crossroads Business Park were made Tuesday: the hotel/convention center’s elusive investor and a new restaurant.

“Dr. Hiren Patel, a Texarkana doctor, is the investor for the hotel and convention center,” said Arkansas-side City Manager Harold Boldt.

Patel, who was not at the announcement, is an internal medicine doctor at Collom & Carney Clinic. Investing in such a massive project as a hotel and convention center, he said, comes naturally.

“I am investing in the community because I already care for the community as a medical practitioner,” Patel said later. “I want to create more jobs and attract tourism to Texarkana.”

Patel expressed concerns with Texarkana, Texas, officials’ plan to build, own and operate their own hotel/convention center complex.

“In my opinion, I wish Texarkana, Texas, would let Texarkana, Ark., grow and not step on their toes when they want to do something,” he said.

Patel referred to Texas-side officials announcing plans to proceed with their own hotel/convention center complex. The complex is scheduled to be on 3 acres of undeveloped property near Central Mall.

Boldt said work on the Arkansas-side hotel/convention center is on hold while Patel finishes a previously committed project elsewhere.

“I want to do this because Texarkana doesn’t have this kind of facility for people to meet in one location and have that location big enough to meet in. We will move forward with the project,” Patel said. “I’m comfortable with going forward with this project with the support of the people of Texarkana.”

Though the hotel brand has not been decided, Patel said he and city leaders are looking for an upscale, full-service hotel brand.

While there have been no visible signs of progress at the hotel/convention center site, Boldt said there’s a reason behind the careful planning.

“A lot of steps have to be taken before you break dirt. There’s a lot both sides have to do: design plans, apply for tax credits, choose a builder. A lot of little things add up quickly,” Boldt explained.

“This is prudent because it’s a partnership where the city doesn’t have to take a lot of risk. We won’t own or operate the hotel or convention center. The investor has agreed to take that risk.”

Also, Copeland’s New Orleans Restaurant and Bar is scheduled to open late August/early September in the business park.

“We’ve said all along when we wanted to try to get things that add value to the city. We want quality,” Boldt said. “Copeland’s can pull in other things, companies and businesses you can’t imagine.”

Though Boldt said Copeland’s investors declined to be named, the partners are both from Texarkana.

Poised to take over 2 acres at the front of the business park, Copeland’s is a casual, sit-down, family restaurant offering New Orleans-style dishes.

Its footprint will be 8,000 square feet, seat 300 customers and it is slated to employ 150 to 170. A full bar and lounge will be inside and the restaurant will have an outdoor patio area expected to be one of the biggest of the chain franchises.

Originating in 1983 by Al Copeland, the chain has expanded to more than 40 locations in 12 states. Offshoots of the Copeland’s brand include Cheesecake Bistro, Fire and Ice Restaurants and Al’s Diversified Food & Seasonings, a line of specialty foods and spices for large national restaurant chains.

But, Boldt said, the deal almost didn’t happen.

“The developers were on their way to Memphis to open a Copeland’s there,” Boldt said. “But each investor—Patel and these two people—were aware of each other and one wouldn’t come without the other. We got the hotel and convention center in, then Copeland’s came. With the economy being slow and not much expanding in the market, this is a victory.”

It’s not clear what kind of an economic footprint the restaurant will have on Texarkana. But Economic Development Director Kenny Haskin points north to what it could be.

“The investors own a Copeland’s location in Little Rock. It’s the highest-grossing restaurant in the city. It’s very significant to the area,” Haskin said. “Based on talks with Little Rock city leaders, the city’s coffers are smiling, to say the least,” he said.

“It’s been an emotional drain as far as the Crossroads project, with everything that’s happened in the area. But at the end of the day, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. The pieces are starting to come together,” Haskin said. “Words can’t describe how I feel. The leadership of Texarkana, Ark., has stuck with us, and I’m extremely proud to be a part of producing some fruit of that.”

This is great! Just what the Arkansas side needs! More money and jobs pouring into the city.

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