The Chawla brothers and the Trump brothers called it quits Thursday, about 20 months after announcing a deal that would have put a Scion-branded hotel and conference center west of Delta State University on the edge of Cleveland.
A news release from the Trump organization in New York phrased it as “Trump Hotels to suspend expansion plans in Mississippi.”
When announced in June 2017, it was the first deal signed by President Donald Trump’s sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, under their own brand, Scion, a little-used word that means “a descendant of a wealthy, aristocratic or influential family.”
The development with Suresh and Dinesh Chawla, who own Greenwood-based Chawla Hotels, was to be the first branded with the four-star Scion name. The deal also included renaming other Chawla properties with the Trumps’ American Idea Hotels brand, their first foray into the three-star lodging market.
In Thursday’s news release, a statement attributed to both Trump sons said: “We have great respect and admiration for the Chawla family and their father, the late Dr. V.K. Chawla. They are truly exceptional developers with an amazing vision. We have enjoyed our time working together and know that when complete, under the leadership of Dinesh and Suresh, their hotel in Cleveland will be an absolutely spectacular project.
”We wish them tremendous luck in the future — they will continue to be close friends for a very long time.”
Contacted by the Commonwealth, Suresh Chawla, president of Chawla Hotels, declined to comment further than the news release.
In the release, the Chawla brothers are quoted as saying, “We are honored to have had the opportunity to work with the Trump Organization. Don, Eric and the entire Trump Hotels Team are fantastic people, and their family helped launch our path to the American Dream 30 years ago. Our product is far superior today to when we started, and that is because of the time and expertise that Trump Hotels dedicated to us. We understand their position completely and are grateful for their professionalism. We hope that when the time is right, we can work with Trump Hotels again.”
The press release left it unclear as to whether the luxury hotel would be scaled back or still developed to the Trump standards. However, in a Facebook post, Dinesh Chawla, the CEO of Chawla Hotels, said the development was “on schedule to open this fall.
“You guys see all the whirlwind of activity out there on the construction site. With a bit less rain, we’d be cranking it even more.”
What was happening on the 17.5-acre parcel was the talk of Cleveland since the deal was announced and construction on the site came to a halt.
When the Trumps signed on, the complex went further upscale, reportedly increasing the price tag of the development to around $20 million.
The Chawlas said at the time that Trump specialists in architecture, design and development came to Cleveland to work out details, requiring the original planning for such things as driveways, parking lots and drainage to be reconfigured. Some of it needed government review and the issuance of new permits, all factors that ate up time for the development.
Before hooking up with the Trumps, the Chawlas had planned to call the hotel The Lyric and said they expected it to open by the end of 2017. The complex was to include not only a 100-room boutique hotel but also a spa, restaurants, large meeting space and outdoor amenities. The 2016 groundbreaking brought the lieutenant governors of Mississippi and Louisiana to Cleveland.
By the end of 2017, Dinesh Chawla told the Commonwealth the renamed Scion at West End complex was expected to open sometime in 2018. That was also the year the renovations and refurbishing were to begin at Chawla hotels in Cleveland, Clarksdale and Greenville, to be rebranded as American Idea Hotels.
In February 2018, the Mississippi Development Authority granted a tax break to the Scion development worth more than $6 million under the Mississippi Tourism Incentive Program.
• Contact Gavin Maliska at 581-7235 or firstname.lastname@example.org.