Holiday Inn Express, Sonic planned for Terre Haute, Ind.

Jan. 31--Slow economy or not, some big building plans are in the works in Terre Haute, especially on the city's southeast side.

Local developer Greg Gibson is teaming with Tim Dora of Dora Brothers Hospitality Corp., which owns the new Hilton Garden Inn and Candlewood Suites on Wabash Avenue, to build a Holiday Inn Express hotel near Walmart around Indiana 46 and Margaret Avenue.

"I think it will be great for that area," Gibson said. The new hotel, which will be located on property owned by Gibson west of the Thornton's gas station on the north side of Margaret Avenue, is expected to have between 90 and 100 rooms, he said, adding that construction should begin this spring. Other projects under way in that neighborhood include a new Sonic Drive-in restaurant being built in front of Walmart and just south of Riddell National Bank on Indiana 46. Ground already has been broken on that facility, which is expected to be around 5,720 square feet when completed, according to company documents filed with the state.

Bob Evans, the family restaurant, owns 1.3 acres of land south of the upcoming Sonic location.

"I'm hopeful the hotel going out there might prompt [Bob Evans] to do something," Gibson said.

Another building project under way in the area of Indiana 46 and Interstate 70 is the new Terre Haute Convention and Visitors Bureau of Vigo County. Thompson Thrift, a local builder, is constructing the new facility, which will be at 5353 Margaret Ave. across from the Fed Ex facility near Indiana 46.

"I think it's going to be a good thing for our community and a good thing for our office," said Dave Patterson, director of the bureau. The new facility will be near I-70 because "we needed to be on the front curb" of Terre Haute, Patterson said.

The new Convention and Visitor's Bureau will include a tall, circular glass area at its entrance, business offices, a conference room, information about local universities and local history as well as information on current attractions and events, Patterson said. The facility also will feature public rest rooms, e-mail "islands" and a play area for kids, he said.

"We wanted it to be a bold statement," Patterson said of the design of the new facility, which he said should be open for business June 1. The facility is being paid for completely by funds from the Inn Keeper's tax, he said. It will measure around 7,485 square feet, according to documents filed with the state.

Another planned project on Indiana 46 is a new branch of the Vigo County Federal Credit Union, which will be on 1.3 acres of land between Burger King and the Riddell Bank. The new credit union branch will employ four people initially and will be a full-service facility, said Dale Burkitt, president of the credit union.

While many financial institutions are reluctant to make loans right now, the Federal Credit Union is in a "lending position," Burkitt said. The credit union avoided the sub-prime mortgage market and is experiencing growth while many other lenders are not, he said. "Now, we're seeing growth," Burkitt said.

The Federal Credit Union is the first Vigo County-based credit union to open a branch location, Burkitt said, adding construction of the facility should begin in March and a grand opening should happen in August.

While not on Indiana 46, another new business project to open recently is the new Toyota of Terre Haute on U.S. 41 South.

While just opening for business on Jan. 19 -- and despite the recent snow -- the new dealership already is seeing a lot of business and selling a lot of cars, said owner Scott Jaeger. Of the approximately 25 employees at the new dealership, eight or nine are new hires, he said.

"We've been encouraged by what we've seen," Jaeger said of the dealership's early business. The new facility, which sits on more than six acres, has around 200 new and used cars presently but is expected to reach nearly 400 when the market reaches a "traditional selling environment," he said.

Meanwhile, Gibson, who owns several parcels of land around the new east side Walmart, said he is encouraged by the development in that area, despite the slow economy. In recent weeks, Gibson said he has received several pricing inquiries for some of his lots.

"The economic climate isn't so good, but we've got a lot of things going on and some potential things coming," Gibson said. "I'm optimistic about things happening this year."

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