|By Peter Healy, The Stamford Advocate, Conn.|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Oct. 14, 2003 - A shuttered assisted living facility on Stamford's West Side that was built as a luxury inn and restaurant in 1984 is slated to become a hotel once again.
North Brunswick, N.J.-based Apex Hospitality Corp. plans to convert the former Atria Town Center at 26 Mill River St. into a 94-room Hampton Inn & Suites by early next year.
The 84,500-square-foot brick building opened as the Inn at Mill River and closed amid a glut of hotel construction in Stamford during the 1980s. The Atria facility closed last winter because of low occupancy. "The hotel had a good reputation and we want to return that reputation to the property," said Apex Hospitality President Sunil Nayak. "Stamford definitely needs a Hilton product."
Apex Hospitality will operate the hotel under a franchise agreement with Hilton Hotels, parent of Hampton Inn and Hampton Inn & Suites. Hiltons that are closest to Stamford are the Hilton Garden Inn in Norwalk and Rye Town Hilton in Rye Brook, N.Y.
On Oct. 3, Apex Hospitality bought the former Atria for $7.5 million from a partnership that includes hotel developers Seth Weinstein and Charles Mallory and condominium developer Randall Salvatore. The trio bought the building in January for $4.5 million. They had planned either to convert it into residential condominiums or into a spa hotel. Mallory and Weinstein invested $32 million in redeveloping the Delamar Greenwich Harbor hotel in Greenwich.
Weinstein said the offer to sell the Atria rather than develop it was too good to turn down.
"It was a bittersweet deal to sell the building because I liked it enormously. It was very well built," Weinstein said. "I hope the buyer will restore it to its former glory. I have great confidence in the future of that neighborhood."
Apex Hospitality expects to invest $2.5 million in renovations at the Stamford facility.
Nayak said the rooms will get new carpets and furniture and he plans to construct a porte cochere, or canopy, a roof parapet and stucco framework. A separate restaurateur will be responsible for renovations of the hotel's 125-seat restaurant, Nayak said.
He said he is talking with two national chains and a couple of local, independent restaurant operators but no deal is final yet. The restaurant might open in April, Nayak said.
The Hampton Inn & Suites will also have a meeting room that can hold 75 people and a board room that can accommodate 15 people, Nayak said. The hotel's parking garage has 128 spaces.
The facility will start with 94 rooms but might expand to 110 units if it can get a zoning variance, Nayak said. The building can fit more guest rooms because some of the rooms in the former assisted living facility are 1,000 square feet, compared with the average hotel room of 400 square feet, he said.
Nayak said 30 percent, or about 28, of the hotel's units will be two-room suites of 600 to 800 square feet. The suites will have refrigerators and microwave ovens and a few of them will have plasma televisions, he added. The suites will cost between $160 and $175 per night, compared with $115 to $135 for a standard room, according to Nayak. Stamford's Hampton Inn aims to attract mainly business travelers, Nayak said.
But those travelers might be in short supply.
According to Smith Travel Research of Hendersonville, Tenn., revenue from Stamford's 2,277 hotel rooms was $60.3 million in 2002, down from $79 million in 2000. The city's hotel occupancy was 54.1 percent last year, according to Smith.
"Although there is evidence of growth and a return to business travel, it is still a challenging marketplace," said Simon Flynn, executive director of the Middletown-based Connecticut Lodging Association. "With the hotel industry primed for a recovery, this Hampton hotel will satisfy demand for mid-market and extended-stay accommodations in this area," said Tom Hamm, senior adviser for Sperry Van Ness/Hamm & Co. in Stamford, which represented Apex Hospitality in the sale. He said the new hotel's suites could be extended-stay rooms.
Apex Hospitality announced its plans as developer Thomas Rich is constructing the 115-room Courtyard by Marriott at the corner of Broad and Summer streets in downtown Stamford.
Rich, who also plans to build a 160-unit Residence Inn extended-stay hotel on Atlantic Street in Stamford, could not be reached for comment. An operator of seven hotels in New Jersey and Massachusetts, Apex Hospitality also plans to build a Homewood Suites extended-stay hotel in Milford.
-----To see more of The Stamford Advocate, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.stamfordadvocate.com
(c) 2003, The Stamford Advocate, Conn. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News. HLT,