• John McGary, Woodford Sun Staff

Graviss 'very supportive' of hotel

The owner of the Versailles McDonald's and the deed restriction on the property told The Sun that he supports the hotel planned for the old Versailles Center property. Bob Waitkus, the marketing director for Graviss McDonald's, said Joe Graviss was meeting Monday and Tuesday with officials from the McDonald's corporation and unavailable for an interview. Waitkus passed on text messages from Graviss in response to a few questions from The Sun. "I'm very supportive of this positive in-fill development (the hotel) and look forward to it connecting to the Kroger center for ease of traffic flow and safety," Graviss wrote. Through Waitkus, Graviss said talk of him asking for design input on the hotel was "very false." Officials from H&W Hotels of Lexington recently announced plans to build a four-story, 81-room Holiday Inn Express and Suites on three acres owned by Versailles Land Group, LLC. The hotel would include a swimming pool and small conference area. Graviss's support is important because of a 1983 deed restriction given to McDonald's by Masada Investment Associates of Knoxville, Tenn., which owned the property then: "Further lessor does hereby covenant that it will not engage in or grant a lease to any person to engage in a restaurant of any type within a radius of two miles from the premises covered by this lease." The restriction essentially gives Graviss veto power over restaurants there. Eli Mashni, the operating manager of Versailles Land Group, acknowledged the deed restriction's limitations, but didn't want to discuss negotiations between his company and Graviss. "That's the way it was set up before we bought it," Mashni said. Mashni reiterated that construction on the hotel should begin late this summer. At last week's Versailles City Council meeting, HW partner Don Howard said it should be open for business in late summer of 2017. Asked if the hotel had been delayed due to negotiations involving the deed restriction, Mashni said, "I don't think we're behind schedule on our end." As for what sort of businesses his group might attract to the property, Mashni said, "We thought we had an interested party. . These type of things don't happen overnight. You don't bring a hotel to a market that's never had one before quickly. "We're really looking forward to bringing some much-needed retailers and services," Mashni said. Mashni said the 11-acre property has six lots, the largest of which is three acres and will be the site for the Holiday Inn Express and Suites. Versailles Mayor Brian Traugott is one of the biggest backers of a hotel and other businesses for the old Versailles Center. Shortly after he took office, the Versailles City Council voted to condemn and raze the property, which once featured, among other businesses, a flea market, Sweet Potatoes restaurant and a Radio Shack. The city spent about $270,000 on the work and last year recouped the cost, plus interest, from then-property owner PBI Bank. Asked what sort of restaurants and other businesses he'd like to see there, Traugott demurred. "I'm excited about the possibilities, but I don't have any preferences. I'll leave that to the people who are investing the money," he said. Traugott said he didn't believe there had been a motel or hotel in Woodford County since he was a child. One located near Woodford County High School then "was not the type of place that would draw tourists to stay there," Traugott said. Traugott said he faced two Versailles Center-related problems when he took office: the dilapidated state of the buildings there and the deed restrictions. "One of those obviously we took care of, and the other one, I believe, is being worked out," Traugott said.

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