LAKE CONROE, TX-A 174-acre vacant resort will have a second life with help from its new owner, Atlanta-based French Quarter Group. The buyer plans to invest more than $100 million into the Del Lago Resort & Conference Center, its first property in Texas.

Located at 630 Del Lago Dr., the resort has a 130,000-sf conference center, 320-suite tower and 18-hole golf course. Ronnie Ben-Zur, CEO and founder of French Quarter Hospitality, tells that the buildings will be torn down to their bones and rebuilt. He says work will begin in September, with a grand re-opening scheduled for summer 2008.

Ben-Zur says more structures will be added, including a stand-alone, upscale restaurant and freestanding spa building. Also, a lobby will be added to the hotel. “This was originally built as a condo and didn’t have a lobby,” he explains. “They added a conference facility and used that as a lobby for awhile, but it wasn’t very successful.”

Ben-Zur says the resort wasn’t in very good shape to begin with, but it definitely has some very good features. “It’s on a lake. It’s a beautiful location with fantastic views,” he says. “This affords so many amenities to everyone whether they’re coming as part of a business conference or for leisure. We felt it could be a fantastic property if handled correctly.”

Ben-Zur says Del Lago will undergo a name change and most likely operated independently rather than flagged. Once renovations are completed, French Quarter Hospitality, the buyer’s operating arm, will manage the property.

Del Lago Resort has had a checkered history. Built in the mid-1980s, it fell into the hands of the Resolution Trust Corp. before being picked up for a nominal amount by an off-shore company in the mid-1990s. “The property was in good shape when they picked it up, but they’re investors, not hoteliers,” says Lisa Hankamer, senior associate with CB Richard Ellis’ hotel group in Houston. “The hotel suffered from lack of funds and attention and needed upgrading. That’s what this buyer does.” The resort closed several months ago.

Hankamer says French Quarter Hospitality was willing to put in the time and necessary financial commitment. “The hotel hadn’t had some care in awhile and Ronnie sees a lot of opportunity there,” the seller’s broker explains. “The hotel had a great reputation at one point and he wants to bring it back.” Ray Hankamer of Hankamer & Associates Brokers LLC in Houston assisted with the sale.

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