What was once improbable is now official: Dorchester County is going to be home to a luxury hotel.
Officials from the state and Hyatt Hotels Corp. have closed a deal to bring a $155 million hotel and resort to Cambridge. Financing for the plan was completed yesterday. On Monday night the state sold the land where the development will be built.
The hotel has been hailed as a boost for a community that has largely missed out on the tourism and development that have brought dollars and fears of sprawl to other parts of the Eastern Shore.
"Completing the Hyatt resort has long been a top economic development priority for the state," Gov. Parris N. Glendening said in a statement.
Glendening called the project "a huge economic boon to Dorchester County."
Construction on the Hyatt resort is expected to begin as soon as Monday, and is slated for completion in November 2001.
The state anticipates that the project -- which includes a 400-room, six-story hotel; 24,000-square-foot conference center; 15,000-square-foot spa; 18-hole golf course and 150-slip marina -- will create 600 jobs and inject $34 million into the state economy annually.
A second phase of the project, the construction of 100 single-family homes and 200 multifamily residences around the golf course, will begin in 2003.
Aside from a $2 million loan from the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, the project is being privately financed. However, the hotel technically will be owned by the Maryland Economic Development Corp. (MEDCO), a quasi-public nonprofit organization established by the state in 1984.
By placing the official ownership of the hotel and resort in a nonprofit's hands and by locating the project in a tax-favored enterprise zone, Hyatt and its corporate partners were able to ensure that the bonds issued to finance the development were tax-exempt.
The 342-acre Choptank River waterfront parcel set aside for the plan had been the home of the Eastern Shore Hospital Center, a sprawling, 38-building psychiatric care facility.
The state sold the land for $5 million to Chesapeake Resort LLC, a partnership between Chicago-based Hyatt, contractor Clark Enterprises Inc. of Bethesda and developer Quadrangle Development Corp. of Washington.
The hospital, which houses about 60 patients, will move to a new, 22-acre site less than a mile away. A Veterans Administration clinic and Dorchester County Health Department office on the parcel will also be moved to new sites within Cambridge.
"It's a great day for Dorchester County," said Thomas A. Flowers, president of the county's board of commissioners. "I have always felt that we were just a jewel waiting to be discovered."