JACKSONVILLE, FL-A joint venture of Baltimore-based Alex. Brown Realty Inc. and locally based Landcom Hospitality Management have begun construction of two hotels in Downtown, a 123-room Hilton Garden Inn and a 98-room Hilton Homewood Suites. The project is expected to be completed in early 2009.

ABR Chesapeake Fund III, a value-added real estate investment fund sponsored by ABR, provided $6.45 million to the venture. Landcom and its principals and partners provided $3 million. Joseph Epstein, of First American Realty Associates, secured $20.5 million in debt financing for the project. This is the third joint venture between ABR and Landcom.

The two adjoining hotels will be constructed as a single eight-story building. The hotels will have separate entrances and operate separately, but will share some facilities. Parking will be available in an existing 1,300-space municipal garage adjacent to the hotels. “This design is among the first of a handful of duel-branded hotels to be introduced nationally that target multiple markets and are most cost efficient,” says Landcom senior vice president and director of hotel development Hank Fonde.

The project is located between the St. John’s River business district and the San Marco community and adjacent to the Jacksonville Skyway Kings Avenue station. The hotels are part of a larger, transit-oriented development known as Kings Avenue Station.

“Downtown Jacksonville has experienced tremendous growth over the past five years due to strong support from the city and its Jacksonville 2010 planning initiative,” ABR senior vice president Peter Bancroft. “We anticipate that the growth will continue to increase the demand for lodging.”

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