CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The new owners of the Ramada Inn Downtown Charleston -- formerly the Charleston House Hotel -- plan to spend more than $15 million on renovations during the next 18 months.
Albany, N.Y.-based BBL Hospitality purchased the 256-room hotel from a Philadelphia real estate holding company Wednesday.
"We want to restore this to its original grandeur," said Keith McClanahan, senior vice president of BBL Carlton of Charleston, a BBL Hospitality affiliate. "It will be newer and fresher and people will be glad they stayed here."
BBL Carlton plans to renovate the lobby, guest rooms, meeting rooms and all public areas. The company also will build a new indoor pool and sports-themed restaurant called Recovery Sports Grill. The property's entire exterior will be refurbished.
The full-service hotel -- located across the street from Haddad Riverfront Park -- will stay open and keep the Ramada brand amid the renovations. The property could switch to another franchise -- possibly a Sheraton Hotel -- once the project is completed.
"We'll be taking several floors at a time," McClanahan said. "We're going to make this the place that people want to be."
After the renovations, the hotel is expected to compete with the Charleston Marriot and Embassy Suites in downtown Charleston.
The property's biggest selling point: a spectacular view of the Kanawha River and Charleston waterfront.
"There is no better view for a hotel than this," McClanahan said, while leading a tour of the property Wednesday. "This is an ideal location."
BBL executives declined to disclose the hotel's purchase price Wednesday, but confirmed the company paid close to $5 million.
Charleston Mayor Danny Jones, who spent months trying to persuade BBL to take over the hotel, said the property is critical to the city's downtown and convention business.
"BBL is a great corporate partner and neighbor for our city's efforts to create Haddad Riverfront Park and Kanawha Boulevard as Charleston's front porch for special events and visitors," Jones said. "BBL Hospitality's commitment to purchase and improve this property begins a new era for the hotel business in downtown Charleston."
For years, the hotel operated as the Charleston House and later the Charleston House Holiday Inn. The hotel joined the Ramada chain in March.
Built in 1966, the Charleston House was once one of the city's finest and busiest hotels.
Previous owners have been criticized for neglecting the property. The former management group upgraded guest rooms a year or two ago, but other sections don't appear to have changed since the hotel first opened.
The hotel has 13,000 square feet of meeting space, an attached parking garage with room for 258 vehicles, fitness and business centers, a first-floor café and retail shops.
BBL Carlton plans to move its Charleston office from the Huntington Bank building to the hotel's second floor. About 15 employees are expected to make the move later this year.