City hotels prepared to spend millions

Monday, June 16, 2008 at 3:03am
Nashville Doubletree Hotel’s new pool area is part of an $8 million renovation. Many of the city’s existing downtown hotels are spending millions on improvements. Matthew Williams/The City Paper

Nashville’s existing downtown hotels have or are in the process of spending millions of dollars to renovate.

Doubletree Hotel just completed an $8-million renovation. The Renaissance has completed an $8-$10-million renovation as well.

Sheraton Nashville Downtown is the next to proceed with an $8-million phase of renovations that will include rooms and halls. That begins toward the end of the year and follows last year’s $3.5-million renovation of the lobby, fitness center, restaurant and bar.

The Sheraton’s owner G. E. Capital is proceeding with the renovations despite having had the property on the market for more than a year.

Over the past few years, the major hotel companies have increasingly pushed owners carrying their flags to meet standards or lose the flag.

Ed Mraz, Sheraton Downtown’s general manager, said it doesn’t matter if a hotel is for sale. Starwood Hotels, which owns the Sheraton brand, is no longer accepting that additional investment can’t be made if a property is for sale.

“They could sue or they could pull the flag,” Mraz said. “The hotel industry in general has gotten much better about keeping up with renovations.”

G.E. Capital acquired the hotel in January 2007 as part of a large group of assets. It has been selling off a variety of assets in addition to hotels.

Memphis-based Wright Investment Properties bought the Doubletree for $50 million with Boston-based firm AEW Capital Management. The purchase is Wright’s first full-service hotel.

Under the previous owners, local industry officials said the Doubletree languished even though millions had been invested and lagged behind others in the downtown market.

Wright renovated the lobby, rooms, the bar, the restaurant, the fitness center and the meeting rooms. And the sales staff became more aggressive.

“Since I’ve been here, we’ve increased (average daily rate) $30,” said Denise Tinney, director of sales for the hotel.

Tinney said the rate now is about $140. In April, downtown rates averaged $136.63, according to most recent number from Smith Travel Research.

The hotel’s occupancy has improved as well, Tinney said. It had been running around 70% and now has touched 80% or higher depending on the week, even during renovations, she said.

Though the first four months of the year, downtown occupancy rates averaged just under 70%.

Tinney said business travel is down some as well as attendance at corporate meetings, which has affected occupancy.

“Our goal right now is to hold our own until the election is over,” and maybe the economy improves, she said.

For years, hospitality leaders said the Sheraton needed the same level of renovations as the Doubletree.

“If it’s going to compete, they need to do that,” said Butch Spyridon, chief executive officer of the Nashville Convention & Visitors Bureau. “The timing’s right for investment that pays dividends for years to come.”

Spyridon said the management has improved with the current general manager a good step in addition to the renovations.

“Their current GM is one of the best they’ve had,” he said.

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By: producer2 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Nice report Richard. I dare say these properties will need the renovations to keep up with the new propwrties that will come on line in the next couple of years. Most people do not realize that a 70% occupancy rate is well over the National average and is just another reminder of how popular a destination Nashville is.