News for the Hospitality Executive
|By Ted Evanoff, The Indianapolis Star
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Jan. 23, 2004 - Elegant hotels in Indianapolis already put chocolate on the pillows.
And if that's not enough to satisfy late-night cravings, room service will deliver meals any time.
So managers of upscale hotels are taking in stride plans for a 23-story Conrad at Illinois and Washington streets.
Scheduled to open in spring 2006 with 234 rooms decked in marble and light wood, the Conrad would be Downtown's fourth luxury hotel.
But upscale hoteliers aren't thinking about dressing up their own buildings in preparation for additional tony competition.
They say the Conrad's European five-star reputation can draw a new wave of wealthy travelers to stay -- not just in the new tower, but also in Downtown's established luxury hotels.
"We'll continue to offer the service, history and ambience our guests have come to expect," said Michael Scholl, director of sales and marketing at the 99-room Canterbury Hotel, regarded as the city's most expensive, with nightly rates of $220 to $1,575 before discounts.
Even pricier rates are anticipated at the new hotel, which is expected to open under the probable name Conrad Indianapolis.
The city's Metropolitan Development Commission signed off on the project Wednesday, handing the deal to the City-County Council for final approval.
The $100 million construction project entails putting up a new tower on the site with $24 million worth of public assistance.
Known as a small and posh chain in Europe, Belgium-based Conrad is a luxury brand pioneered by Hilton Hotel Corp. of Beverly Hills, Calif.
Hilton Hotel was founded by entrepreneur Conrad Hilton, who spun off the European operations years ago to Hilton International, which markets 15 luxury hotels in Europe and Asia under the Conrad banner.
The Beverly Hills company now is run by Stephen Bollenbach, a longtime hotel executive.
A former Holiday Inns and Marriott executive, Bollenbach was an associate of New York celebrity investor Donald Trump in his casino and hotel ventures, and later led Walt Disney Co. in its 1995 acquisition of television and media network ABC/Capital Cities.
Bollenbach recently engineered a joint venture between Hilton Hotel and Hilton International, opening the way for his California firm to bring the Conrad brand into the United States. It is building a Conrad in Miami and looking for opportunities in other cities. It also has bought the Waldorf Astoria in New York and recast a section of it as the Waldorf Conrad.
"The strategy behind Conrad is to establish a luxury presence with the brand," said Marc Grossman, Hilton Hotel senior vice president for public affairs.
When Bollenbach set out to expand the Hilton Hotel chain, Hilton officials scouted Indianapolis several years ago for a site. They came across local developers interested in building a Downtown luxury hotel in conjunction with city development agencies who wanted an upscale hotel.
Hilton Hotel dropped plans for a conventional Hilton and agreed to manage a Conrad for a fee without taking ownership of the building.
The owner is a joint venture created for the project by two Indianapolis developers, Mansur Real Estate Services and majority owner Kite Development.
"This hotel will fill another piece of the puzzle," said Kite Partner Tom McGowan. "We were responsible in terms of determining the size of this project."
The Conrad would be unique to Indianapolis. As a five-star hotel, garnering the highest quality travel industry rating, the new hotel would draw an upper-crust clientele now accustomed to luxury spots such as the Four Seasons.
Indianapolis has a trio of four-star facilities, all Downtown. The 615-room Indianapolis Marriott Downtown opened in 2001. The 424-room Omni Severin was opened in 1983 and renovated in 2001. The Canterbury opened under that name in 1984 and was freshened recently.
"The Conrad is another tier up for the market," said the Canterbury's Scholl. "There aren't that many of those in the United States. I don't think it would be bad for our hotel. It'll open up our market to another segment of visitor. Conrad can pull a lot more international guests into our city."
"We'll benefit from more inventory," said Chris Ratay, Omni Severin marketing director. "We think anything they bring will help attract the clients we want for this city."
No construction alterations are on the table at the established hotels. The Omni already distinguishes itself with a towering waterfall, tables laden with fresh flowers and elegantly adorned rooms. The Canterbury is decorated like a fine mansion and ensures quality service by making sure three and sometimes four employees are on duty for each guest.
Indianapolis architect Greg Jacoby, a partner at Browning Day Mullins Dierdorf, the firm overseeing design, said the new hotel will make its own statement.
Enter from the Washington Street entrance and a magnificent wooden staircase will lead to a grand ballroom. Marble of various hues imported from China, India and Italy will coat the floors, set off by light woods like teak imported from Europe.
"We were not trying to come up with some hip and modern design," Jacoby said. "The hotel is supposed to last for a very long time."
Comparing prices and amenities of three Downtown hotels rated four stars by AAA. (Room rates listed here are for single adult rooms with a Sunday, Feb. 1, check-in and a Monday, Feb. 2, check-out).
Marriott Indianapolis Downtown
-- Floors: 19
-- Rooms: 615
-- Room rate: $189 to $229
-- Floors: 12
-- Rooms: 99
-- Room rate: $135 to $225
Omni Severin Hotel
-- Floors: 11
-- Rooms: 424
-- Room rate: $279 The Waldorf Towers (A Conrad hotel in New York City)
-- Floors: 14
-- Rooms: 180
-- Room rate: $369*
* Single-room price as quoted on hotel's Web site in last week of January.
SOURCE: Prices from hotelsbycity.com
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(c) 2004, The Indianapolis Star. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News. MAR, HLT, IHG, DIS,