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Staff Writer

DEVENS — In March 2006, Robert Culver predicted that Devens, the 4,000-acre former military post, would become a “sought-after” hub of high-tech businesses and condo buyers.

Two years later, at least one company shares the vision of the president and CEO of MassDevelopment, which oversees Devens.

True North Hotel Group, a Kansas-based hotel development and management company, wants to construct a 120-room Hilton Garden Inn on Devens Common, next to the existing Marriott SpringHill Suites. The proposal comes just four months after a Needham developer proposed a Hilton Homewood Suites in Littleton.

A Hilton official said the Garden Inn will cater to additional demands created by pharmaceutical giant Bristol-Myers Squibb and other businesses constructing facilities in Devens and surrounding areas.

“The market is strong,” said Karen Whitman, regional director of development with Hilton Hotels. “We know our product is strong and it can generate a demand” on its own, she added.

“The market is strong,” said Karen Whitman, regional director of development with Hilton Hotels. “We know our product is strong and it can generate a demand” on its own, she added.

Devens Development LLC recently submitted a permit application for the Garden Inn project with the Devens Enterprise Commission. If all goes smoothly, the hotel is expected to open in early 2010, according to Robert Walker, president of Devens Development, which owns Devens Common, the 25-acre commercial center on Jackson Road in the heart of the community.

Walker also developed the 120-suite Marriott SpringHill for True North Hotel Group.

The four-story, 7,000-square-foot hotel, the cost of which would be about $6 million, will likely feature an indoor swimming pool, a business center with a 3,000-square-foot meeting space, a restaurant and a lounge. It will abut Devens Common Center, a 14,000-square-foot conference center attached to the Marriott SpringHill.

Walker said Marriott SpringHill has had high occupancy rates and believes the demand warrants a new hotel.

In the meantime, Devens’ Hilton Garden Hill and Littleton’s Hilton Homewood Suites will have “absolutely different niches,” Hilton’s Whitman said, with the former typically catering to travelers who stay overnight and the latter targeting extended stays, beyond five days.

Both Walker and Whitman said Bristol-Myers Squibb’s move to construct a biomanufacturing plant on an 85-acre campus at the Jackson Technology Park, as well as Evergreen Solar’s production facility, which is under construction on Barnum Road, have encouraged them to bring a new hotel to Devens.

Evergreen Solar’s project has already created about 400 jobs and will have another 400 when the plant is completed in the middle of next year, company spokesman Christopher Lawson said.

Though the manufacturing facility may not have many visitors that require a hotel stay, the company plans to continue an annual analysts conference that it already held in June at Devens, Lawson said.

Bob Shapiro, executive vice president of Waterford Development Corp. of Needham, has said IBM’s recent decision to relocate 2,000 jobs to a campus on the Littleton-Westford border convinced the company to propose the 112-suite Hilton Homewood Suites.

Walker said those who visit Devens for sport events and weddings are also responsible for the brisk hotel business. Boasting the 18-hole Red Tail Golf Club, ball fields and conservation land totaling 1,300 acres, Devens attracts 200,000 visitors a year for outdoor recreational activities, according to MassDevelopment.

“The growing demand for hotel rooms at Devens from our business, recreational and residential visitors is a testament to the fact that the Devens community is moving in the right direction,” said MassDevelopment spokesman Adam Bickelman in a written statement.

Whitman added that both the Devens and Littleton projects were planned before September, thus prior to the national economic turmoil. She said the company believes the economy will be back on track by the time the hotels open.