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City hotel renovations, building take shape

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Added beds, new names and a new hotel: Charleston's downtown lodging scene is changing.

Just off the Leon Sullivan Way exit on Washington Street, the Fairfield Inn is now operating as the Charleston Capitol Hotel. The hotel shed its Marriott franchise and changed its name recently.

"This was a lot of things coming together," said Ash Patel, CEO of Southwest Hospitality that manages day-to-day operations at the hotel. "At one point, we weren't able to sustain what Marriott wanted us to do, and from a brand standpoint, we wanted to be something different."

Patel sees the transition as an opportunity. The hotel's signs have changed and all the proprietary Marriott material has been removed from the hotel.

Patel said upon coming out of the recession, some of the brand mandates had become too regulated.

The hotel will retain the same staff but offer a new boutique experience. The Charleston Capitol Hotel hopes to fill downtown's extended stay void, Patel said. The hotel will book rooms for varying time periods when needed.

"You get restricted with the brands," Patel said. "It's an experiment for us at this point."

Patel added that with the construction of another Marriott hotel downtown along the Elk River the move to operating as an independent made even more sense.

"When you have multiple Marriott locations the reservations are shared by the system," Patel said.

A Courtyard by Marriott is being built at the confluence of the Elk and Kanawha rivers along the Kanawha Boulevard. Construction for the project started on Feb. 28 and is expected to be complete in August 2014.

The hotel is expected to have 120 rooms.

Tim Brady works as vice president of sales for the Charleston Convention & Visitors Bureau and sees the changes downtown as a positive.

"For us, it's exciting," Brady said. "It's a great opportunity for us to draw larger events to the city."

Downtown has roughly 1,400 hotel beds. With the addition of the Courtyard by Marriott, downtown will have a little more than 1,500 beds, Brady said.

Jamilah Clarke works as Sales and Marketing directing for the Ramada Inn located at 600 Kanawha Blvd. Clarke said the hotel has undergone extensive renovations and will switch franchises from Ramada to Four Points by Sheraton on Jan. 16.

The hotel will host an official ribbon cutting ceremony Jan. 22 at 9 a.m. 

Clarke said renovations include upgrades to the 176 guest rooms, a new fitness center, providing hotel guests with an indoor heated pool, a 9,000-square-foot meeting space and a new lobby space.

"I think the hotel itself has a different feel and layout," Clarke said.

Based on the hotel's size and functional space, Clarke hopes to attract leisure travelers, business travelers and social events like conferences, weddings, galas and things of that nature.

The hotel was originally the Charleston House hotel. The property operated under the Holiday Inn brand for several years before becoming the Ramada.

"Essentially, it's a new hotel," said Carrie Hillenbrandt, who works as director of sales and marketing for Albany, N.Y.-based BBL Hospitality, who owns the soon-to-be Four Points by Sheraton.

Hillenbrandt said the hotel's premier location across from Haddad Riverfront Park matches the service provided by Four Points.

Hillenbrandt said while the Marriott and Hilton franchises are well represented in the area, this would be the first Four Points by Sheraton location in the state.

"We thought it would be really great to bring Four Points to the Charleston market," Hillenbrandt said.

Reach Caitlin Cook at caitlin.cook@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5113.


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