ELLSWORTH, Maine — Hancock County’s largest hotelier is adding yet another hotel to his list of lodging properties.
David J. Witham, 69, said Tuesday that he is in the process of acquiring the local Holiday Inn from Robert DeSimone of Bar Harbor.
But by the time the hotel is accepting guests again, it may be a Ramada Inn, according to Witham. He said the 103-room inn recently closed for the winter so it can undergo a complete renovation.
“We’re still in the process,” Witham said of the pending sale. “We haven’t signed the paperwork.”
Witham declined to disclose the negotiated sale price of the hotel, which sits on a 5-acre property between Hannaford Supermarket and Card Brook.
Witham said 35 to 40 people recently have been employed at the hotel. He said he expects it to employ roughly the same number of people when it reopens in May.
With the purchase, Witham will own or co-own nearly a dozen hotels in Hancock County. Earlier this year, he purchased the local Hampton Inn, which is expected to open next spring, and the White Birches Hotel just over the city line on U.S. Route 1 in Hancock. The White Birches Hotel since has been renamed the Acadia Birches Knights Inn.
In August, Witham purchased the Comfort Inn, located just down the street from the Holiday Inn. Nathan Young, chief of police in Bar Harbor, and his wife, Eve Young, of Mount Desert, are minority owners in the Comfort Inn.
Witham said that DeSimone could end up being a minority partner in the renovated hotel, whether it ends up being a Ramada Inn or something else. Several recent attempts to contact DeSimone about the future of the property have been unsuccessful.
Witham said that Holiday Inn is planning to revamp its brand and has expressed an interest in ending its affiliation with the local hotel. As a Ramada Inn, the property would bridge the local market gap between the Comfort Inn and Hampton Inn properties, he said.
“I think it’s a good alternative,” Witham said.
Since May 2008, Witham also has acquired the Atlantic Oceanside Hotel, Aurora Inn, the Best Western and the Quality Inn, all of which are in Bar Harbor. In Bar Harbor, he also owns the Bar Harbor Inn, the Acadia Inn and the Bar Harbor Grand Hotel.
With the Holiday Inn purchase, Witham will control more than 1,000 hotel rooms in Hancock County and will own 11 lodging businesses with assessed values totaling more than $45 million.
The Holiday Inn sits on a 5-acre parcel abutting Card Brook, which runs into the Union River. For tax purposes, the city has assessed the value of the property at $5,458,800, according to information posted online on Ellsworth’s real estate database.
According to the database DeSimone’s firm, Three Eights Hotel Group LLC, bought the property in August 2008 for $3,250,000.
Witham said the renovated hotel likely will include a breakfast dining area but no formal bar or restaurant. He said he unsuccessfully attempted to get Olive Garden to build a restaurant next to the Hampton Inn across the street. He is trying to persuade other chain restaurants to consider the undeveloped site next to the Hampton Inn, he said.