Does Peterborough need a hotel?

  • Land between the Dunkin Donuts and Rite Aid on Route 202 was a potential site for a short-term rental building for corporate professionals. Staff photo by Ashley Saari

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Tuesday, October 24, 2017 9:12AM

Cy Gregg, a local developer, looked at putting in a hotel on Main Street in Peterborough with his business partner, Stan Fry, as far back as 2011. 

The project has been put on the back burner for years, as logistical and financial issues have had the duo put off the hotel prospect in favor of other projects, but it’s a prospect that they continue to talk about, and is still potentially on the table, said Gregg. That’s despite the fact that studies that Fry and Gregg conducted when they were investigating the prospect suggested there might not be enough clientele in the area to guarantee the success of a hotel. 

The winter season, he said, would be particularly tricky, as tourism slows down and fewer people travel to the region. Peterborough, said Gregg, is a “seasonal” town.

But that doesn’t rule out the potential need for a hotel.

“There’s a lot of people around that will tell you that a hotel in Peterborough is needed,” said Gregg. “There’s no place to support large events. There’s not that much available for large weddings or conferences.”

Despite those studies, Gregg said he still sees the potential for a hotel in Peterborough, noting that there is a hole in the region when it comes to that kind of accommodation, with no hotels in any of the surrounding towns. Inns and beds and breakfasts provide a different kind of experience, said Gregg, which differs from a hotel. 

“The studies say no. Anecdotal evidence says yes. What’s the truth and where does the reality lie?” said Gregg. “If you have the courage to build it, they may come, so it comes down to if you’re willing to take the risk.”

Select board chair Tyler Ward said that the concept of a hotel has been bandied about at various Master Plan and town vision forums that he’s attended in his capacity as a board member, but there hasn’t been an overwhelming call for one. But he did see some economic benefits to having additional accommodations in town, he said – namely, having additional rooms might encourage out-of-towners to stay overnight when they come into Peterborough for large-scale events such as the MacDowell Colony’s Medal Day.

“That would be great,” said Ward.

A longer stay

As recently as last week, a company was eyeing Peterborough as a possible location for a short-stay apartment building which could have filled a niche for corporations looking to house employees for short amounts of time.

Sean Ryan, the director of the Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce, announced during a chamber event last week that a company was considering building apartments for stays ranging from 30 days to six months, catering to corporate rentals. 

Unlike a traditional hotel, explained Ryan, this kind of building would have apartments that included a kitchen and living space. It would be without 24-hour services like a desk clerk or room service, and maid service would be more likely to be a weekly event than a daily one. The service would deal directly with corporations to rent apartments for periods of time, during which, that corporation could house whomever they wished in the apartments.

The company was interested in purchasing land, behind the Rite Aid in the plaza said Ryan, but may now have to look elsewhere, as the owners of the plot have come to an agreement with another buyer, which could leave the short-term stay complex “dead in the water” said Ryan.

There is still an opportunity for the short-term stay apartments to come to Peterborough or a surrounding town, as the company is still looking at other properties in the area, said Ryan.

Ryan has classified the hotel as extended stay apartments, rather than a traditional hotel, geared more toward contract workers than the tourism industry.

That is something that New Hampshire Ball Bearings, one of the biggest employers in the region, said that they would have use for.

Hans Baker, a spokesperson for New Hampshire Ball Bearings, said in an interview Monday that the company sometimes has machine operators, engineers or executives that might visit the plant for a week, a month, or even longer. Those people might stay at a local inn, he said, or be housed outside of the community in a city like Nashua or Manchester.

“If they had a place to stay that is much closer, it certainly would be more convenient,” said Baker. “It would be a benefit for us.”

Inn and Bed and Breakfast owners in the area said that even if the target is longer stays, they still worry that a new hotel could have an impact on their business.

Ruth Graff, who owns the Benjamin Prescott Inn in Jaffrey, said that most of her customers are for short stays only. If a new hotel moved in that only catered to long-term guests, it likely wouldn’t affect her, she said. But it’s unlikely that a hotel with empty rooms would turn down a weekend or overnight guest, she added, and she does worry that eventuality could cut into her customer base.

“That would impact us, from a small business perspective, because we can’t compete with larger chains, in terms of marketing and things like that,” said Graff.

Rob Fox, owner of the Little River Bed and Breakfast in Peterborough, said he shared those same thoughts, although he agreed that most of the stays at his business were a week long or shorter. 

“It’s hard to believe that this type of platform wouldn’t be open to accepting business such as weekend stays,” he said. “There would be no reason to turn it down.”

Ryan, who has previously worked in the hotel industry, said that contrary to those thoughts, that these types of short-stay apartments don’t operate like that, because unlike hotels, they don’t have a  front desk where drop-in guests can check in.