Thank you for visiting our website. Whether you are looking for an investment opportunity, a management company, a development team, or a career with a great company, we welcome you and hope that you will enjoy browsing our site.
Since our company was founded in 1991, our mission and absolute focus has been to strive for excellence. To achieve this, we first strive for a culture that is built on respect, integrity, honesty, and a shared passion to deliver the best experience to our associates, our guests, our community, and our partners.
I believe that success is measured by the level of satisfaction from our associates and guests. Therefore, we work daily to provide an enjoyable working environment where our associates have opportunities to flourish, as many have. And, as we develop, renovate, and manage hotels, we strategically plan to exceed our guests’ needs and wants. If we can add one extra amenity, predict unexpected personalized service, and genuinely deliver one more kind, meaningful word to each guest, then we can say that we are focused on our mission.
I am enthusiastic about the future of the hotel industry and the future of our company. We hope that you will choose to be a part of our experience.
Navin C. Dimond
President & CEO
Sal Aquilato, Vice President, Design and Construction
Bio Coming Soon
Trey O’Shields, Chief Financial Officer
Bio Coming Soon
Jason Gaede, Vice President of Capital Strategy
Bio Coming Soon
Judy Blattert, Vice President of Sales and Marketing
Judy has over 25 years as a Sales & Marketing leader working in various leadership roles in full service and convention hotels, having served the last 15 years in a multi-unit VP role. Since joining Stonebridge in 2015, Judy has been responsible for overseeing the company’s sales training and development that support the entire portfolio of hotels. Judy oversees sales revenue strategies that include driving top line revenue, achieving defined growth and profit targets as well as meeting market share goals. Judy also oversees sales recruiting efforts, building the sales strategy, devising sales tactics and working with the support teams to ensure success.
Steve Johnson, Vice President of Information Technology
Steve Johnson joined Stonebridge Companies in June of 2016 as Vice President of Information technology. For the past 25 years Steve has worked in multiple technology positions in the hospitality industry; primarily focusing on restaurant hospitality. Most recently Steve was the senior director of information technology for Einstein Noah restaurant group which operates Einstein Brothers bagels among other brands. Steve has also held technology leadership roles in several restaurant companies along the front Range, including champs, Boston market , Village Inn and Quizno’s. Steve grew up along the front Range and attended college at the University of Colorado in Greeley Colorado.
Tommy Nigro, Vice President of Real Estate
Tommy Nigro is responsible for the coordination of all acquisition and development underwriting, the management of due diligence processes and the administration of asset management functions. Mr. Nigro joined Stonebridge Companies in 2006 as the firm’s Acquisition & Development Manager and, prior to that, worked as a Senior Associate at HVS International performing hotel appraisals, market studies and feasibility studies for a number of clients throughout the United States. Mr. Nigro graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Kansas and spent several years working in hospitality operations before returning to school and obtaining an MBA from Denver University with a specialization in Hospitality Finance and Asset Management.
David Chin, Vice President of Information Technology
David Chin serves as VP of Information Technology at Stonebridge Companies where he provides overall leadership in all areas of technology and application systems. His responsibilities include managing the IT department, and ensure delivery excellence in current systems and technology operations. David is focused on implementing best practices in all current systems and IT functions, and acts as a visionary for future IT processes and initiatives. Mr. Chin has over nineteen years of IT experience, working in industries such as semiconductor, software, home building, and hospitality. Prior to joining Stonebridge Companies, Mr. Chin served eight years at Stanford Hotels Corporation in San Francisco as Director of IT. Mr. Chin holds bachelor degrees in Business Management, Human Resources Management, Management Information Systems and a MBA in Technology Management. He also has a current CHTP (Certified Hospitality Technology Professional) designation by the Hospitality Financial Technology Professionals Association.
Matt Friend, Vice President – Risk Management
Matt Friend serves as Vice President of Risk Management for Stonebridge Companies. He is responsible for minimizing risk to the company by leading the company’s risk management strategy, negotiating insurance programs, managing claims, implementing loss prevention programs and administering contract protocols. He has over 23 years experience in the hospitality industry, most recently serving almost nine years as Director of Risk Management for Red Robin International. Mr. Friend is Past President of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of Risk and Insurance Management Society (RIMS) Board of Directors and is an Affiliate Faculty member at Regis University, College of Professional Studies in Denver, CO. Matt earned his Master’s of Science in Management from Regis University and his Senior Professional in Human Resource (SPHR) certification.
Scot Cameron, Vice President – Development and Construction
Scot CameronScot Cameron joined Stonebridge Companies in 2011 as its Vice President of Development and Construction providing an additional layer of oversight for the numerous, complex development projects under construction at any given time. Prior to joining Stonebridge, Mr. Cameron served multiple roles at Sage Hospitality, a privately held hospitality development and management company, from 2007 to 2011 focusing on project growth development, asset management, complex physical due diligence as well as strategic dispositions and finance while working closely with the Board of Directors. From 2000 to 2007, Mr. Cameron worked closely with the executive team coordinating the growth of Magnolia Hotels from one urban, historic hotel to four while overseeing the majority of construction, development and financing through many roles and most recent as Vice President of Development and Finance. He holds a B.B.A. from the University of Wisconsin in Real Estate & Finance from the Graaskamp Center, and Marketing.
JB Bettinger, Vice President Human Resources
JB Bettinger is responsible for all aspects of Human Resources for Stonebridge Companies, and oversees talent acquisition, employee benefits (health plans and 401(k)), training, employee relations, labor relations, and federal/multi-state labor law compliance. JB brings to Stonebridge more than 25 years experience in leading human resources teams in the hospitality industry including lodging, retail, and food/beverage operations. Ms. Bettinger is an experienced HR business partner in both public and privately owned organizations, and is well-versed in organic growth, mergers and acquisitions. Ms. Bettinger holds a BS/BA in Business Administration, and an MBA in International Business from Regis University.
Rhonda Dye, Vice President – Hotel Operations
Rhonda joined Stonebridge Companies in 2013 and brings over 15 years of hospitality experience. Prior to joining the Stonebridge team, Rhonda spent ten years with Prism Hotels in a variety of roles including General Manager, Task Force & Transition Manager, Regional Director of Operations, and SVP of Operations. Rhonda holds a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy and a Bachelor of Science in Hotel & Restaurant Management, both from the University of Missouri.
Rhonda is originally from Cape Fair, Missouri. She is an avid runner, having completed several half marathons. She has 2 dogs and volunteers often with local animal rescues.
Jack Paul, Vice President – Hotel Operations
Jack joined Stonebridge Companies in 2014 and oversees Stonebridge Companies’ full, select and extended stay portfolio. Prior to joining Stonebridge Companies, he was Regional Director of Operations with Expotel Hospitality LLC and RFS Hotel Investors/Flagstone Hospitality. Jack’s professional career also includes multiple positions across many branded and boutique hotels where he specialized in underperforming and turn around assets. He has received General Manager of the Year honors several times throughout his career.
Jack began his career in restaurants while attending University of Florida and Palm Beach State College where he majored in Psychology. He is originally from Orlando, Florida and he and his wife have four children.
Jane Gomez, Vice President – Hotel Operations
Jane has over 20 years as a leader in all aspects of the hotel business and is a successful executive with the proven ability to manage change, implement systems and processes and exceed goals. Prior to joining Stonebridge, Jane strategically directed over 100 hotels on how to maximize revenue of pre-opening and newly opened/converted Marriott branded hotels (MHR, RHR, CFRST, AC, Autograph, and JW) in the Americas by assisting with sales, marketing and revenue strategies. She also led a team to Hotel of the Year honors from Marriott International.
Jane previously served on the board of the Colorado Hotel and Lodging Association and currently serves on the board for Stand Up For Kids. She is originally from Stoneham, Massachusetts, located just outside of Boston and she and her husband have two fabulous children.
Sandra Esparza, Vice President – Hotel Operations
Sandra joined Stonebridge Companies in the 2007 and oversees Stonebridge Companies’ full service portfolio. Ms. Esparza has extensive experience in a number of markets, both branded and independent, including 4 and 5 diamond hotels and resorts. Prior to joining Stonebridge Companies, she was Vice President of Operations with Gemstone Hotels and Resorts and Shell Hospitality. Sandra’s professional career also includes several years with Hilton Corporation and ITT Sheraton/Starwood in multiple positions where she was a highly awarded hotelier and industry leader. Her industry experience began while attending Northeastern University in Boston where she majored in psychology, sociology and theatrical arts.
Scott McChesney, Senior Vice President – Acquisition and Development
Scott McChesney joined Stonebridge in 2008. As Senior Vice President of Acquisition and Development, Scott oversees hotel development, acquisitions, funding, and new business opportunities. Prior to joining Stonebridge, Mr. McChesney was Vice President of RD Olson Development where he was instrumental in growing the company into Southern California’s 20th largest developer in 2007. Mr. McChesney also worked with The Walt Disney Company where he was Director of Development/Acquisitions for their Imagineering division. He also spent one year in Disney’s Corporate Strategic Planning group. At the Pepsi-Cola Corporation/Taco Bell, he was Senior Manager of Development where he analyzed and approved or disapproved the development of proposed fast food sites, approving over $300 million in development capital. Mr. McChesney, who has two years of investment banking experience, holds an MBA from USC and a bachelor’s degree from Pennsylvania State University.
Randy Santulli, Senior Vice President – Hotel Operations
DSC_1453_ppRandy Santulli joined Stonebridge Companies in early 2006 where he serves as Senior Vice President-Hotel Operations. He is responsible for all aspects of the hotel portfolio including select-service, extended-stay, mid-scale and full-service hotels. Mr. Santulli has an extensive background in food and beverage operations and has successfully repositioned numerous high volume restaurant and catering operations throughout his career. Prior to joining Stonebridge, Mr. Santulli served with Remington Hotel Corporation as Divisional Vice President-Hotel Operations, where he was involved in over 45 hotel acquisitions. He previously served with Westbrooke Hospitality Corporation as Senior Vice President-Hotel Operations. Mr. Santulli holds a degree from the Culinary Institute of America.
Howard Pollack, General Counsel
Howard Pollack joined Stonebridge Companies in late 2010 as its General Counsel. Mr. Pollack served as outside counsel to Stonebridge Companies for the past 15 years. He is responsible for managing all legal matters relating to acquisitions, financing, development, construction and general business and corporate matters. Prior to joining Stonebridge Companies, Mr. Pollack spent 17 years at the law firm of Brownstein Hyatt Farber & Schreck where he was a senior partner in the firm’s real estate group and co-chair of the firm’s hospitality group. He brings with him over 21 years of experience in all aspects of real estate law including acquisition, finance, development and disposition of all types of real estate assets. Mr. Pollack began his career as an associate in the real estate group at Richards, Layton & Finger in Wilmington, Delaware. Mr. Pollack graduated Magna Cum Laude from Syracuse University College of Law in 1991. He received his undergraduate degree in economics, with honors, from the University of Delaware. Mr. Pollack frequently lectures on real estate matters in Colorado and is a member of various boards and organizations including the Academy of Hospitality Industry Attorneys, Denver Botanic Gardens and the Colorado Outward Bound School.
David Womack, Chief Financial Officer
David Womack joined our company as Chief Financial Officer in January 2008. Prior to joining Stonebridge Companies, Mr. Womack served from August 2005 to November 2007 as Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer for Champps Entertainment, Inc., a publicly held restaurant company. He started with Champps in April 2002 as its Controller. From April 1997 until April 2002, Mr. Womack served in various capacities including Controller, Chief Financial Officer and Chief Executive Officer for the Wynkoop Brewing Company. From August 1985 until April 1997, Mr. Womack worked in various accounting capacities for VICORP Restaurants, Inc., including Controller. Mr. Womack received his CPA certificate in 1993 and is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. He received his B.S. degree in Finance from Colorado State University and M.S. degree from the University of Colorado at Denver.
Jim Luchars – Chief Investment Officer
Jim Luchars joined Stonebridge Companies in 2012. As Chief Investment Officer Jim oversees all new acquisition and development growth initiatives of the company. Prior to joining Stonebridge Jim was a Principal with AEW Capital Management in the firm’s opportunity fund group. In this capacity, he led AEW’s hospitality group with responsibility for investment origination and asset management for all hotel investments in North America. He was also responsible for office, retail, residential and industrial acquisitions in Chicago, Boston and Florida. Over the course of his tenure at AEW, Mr. Luchars was involved in over $3.0 billion in hotel and commercial real estate transactions in the United States and Europe. Mr. Luchars has over 17 years of real estate experience and six years of years of hotel operations experience. Prior to joining AEW Capital Management in 1996, he served as a senior consultant with the Ernst & Young Kenneth Leventhal Real Estate Group in New York City. He has also held various management positions within the hospitality industry. Mr. Luchars is a graduate of Connecticut College (B.S.) and Cornell University (M.P.S. in Hotel Management and Business).
Chris Manley, Chief Operations Officer
Chris Manley received his Masters in Professional Accounting and Bachelor’s from the University of Texas in Austin. Upon graduating, Chris received the highest score in the State of Colorado’s May 1993 CPA exam, and his score ranked within the top 100 in the nation.
Prior to joining Stonebridge, Chris spent fifteen years at The Pauls Corporation, a real estate investor developer across multiple asset classes. Chris was President of the real estate services company and Chief Financial Officer/Chief Accounting Officer for the entire organization. Prior to joining Pauls, Chris was a Vice President for ProLogis (NYSE: PLD), an industrial REIT, where he was responsible for the acquisition, development, and management of a 10.0msf industrial portfolio in Tennessee and a 5.0msf industrial portfolio in Florida.
Chris Manley grew up in Denver, Colorado. He and his wife have two children. Chris is currently serving on the board of trustees for JK Mullen High School and as a director of the Western Golf Association.
Navin C. Dimond
Navin C. Dimond, President and CEO
Navin Dimond is the founder of Stonebridge Companies. He serves as President and Chief Executive Officer, overseeing the company’s development and investment functions. Stonebridge Companies has experienced substantial, positive growth. Mr. Dimond is the recipient of the Award of Excellence from the Asian American Hotel Owners Association, the Hotelier of the Year Award from the Colorado Hotel and Lodging Association and the prestigious Hilton Hotels Multi-brand Developer of the Year Award. In 2013 Stonebridge Companies received the coveted Marriott Partnership Circle Award, granted to Franchisees for their excellence and commitment to growth as well as dedication to their associates and guests. In 2007, Mr. Dimond received the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award in the Real Estate and Hospitality category for the Rocky Mountain Region.
As a result of his expertise and proven track record, Mr. Dimond serves in an advisory role for a wide variety of organizations. Currently, Navin serves on the Franchise Advisory Council for Hampton Inn Hotels by Hilton and Marriott’s Residence Inn Advisory Board (TRIA Board). Navin has been involved with the Colorado Hotel and Lodging Association (CH&LA) for many years, serving as Chairman in 2003. In 2008 Navin was inducted into the CH&LA Hall of Fame. Mr. Dimond serves on the Washington State University College of Engineering and Architecture Executive Leadership Board, Cornell University’s Dean’s Advisory Board for the School of Hotel Administration and the Daniels College of Business Executive Advisory Board at the University of Denver.
Involvement in the local community is important to Mr. Dimond. Currently he serves on the Board of Trustees for the University of Denver and the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. In addition, Navin serves on the Foundation Board of the Metropolitan State College of Denver and is a Board Member of the Denver Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau (VISIT DENVER), serving as its Chairman in 2016.
Mr. Dimond is a graduate of Washington State University where he earned his B.A. in Business Administration and his B.S. in Construction Management. He earned his MBA in Real Estate and Construction Management from the University of Denver.
Stonebridge Companies President and CEO Navin Dimond talks about his company’s continued growth and the current state of the hotel industry.
PHOENIX—The hotel industry is in a different place as far as industry cycles go, according to Stonebridge Companies President and CEO Navin Dimond.
Hotel News Now caught up with Dimond at the recent Lodging Conference to talk about the company’s growth thus far in 2017 and growth expectations going into 2018.
“I think we’re in a different place,” he said. “The economy in the United States is very mature. … it’s very similar to Japan … very similar to northern Europe, to western Europe, and we’re just one generation behind what happened in Japan 25 years ago.”Before Dimond dove into a discussion of Stonebridge’s success, he answered a question heard often in the hotel industry: “Where are we in the cycle?”
Japan didn’t have a population boom “after the second war,” Dimond said, like America did with the baby boomers, which is why the current economy is similar to where Japan was 25 years ago. He said he expects to see a period of prolonged growth in the industry.
Watch the video below for more of Dimond’s thoughts on the hotel industry in general.
Stonebridge has had a busy 2017 so far in terms of hotel openings.
Stonebridge has opened properties in locations such as Washington, D.C., and Boston, Dimond said, and the company has several hotels under construction around the country that fall under brands such as Moxy, the Autograph Collection and Hyatt Place.
“We’ve got a mix of things going on,” he said. “We’re busy.”
Dimond expects to see more solid growth going into 2018.
“I don’t see a whole lot of difference in where ’17 turned out relative to RevPAR growth and how the hotels performed,” he said. “I think it will be somewhat similar in terms of growth, and I think ’18 should be a good year, as well as ’19.”
The acceptance of “modular construction” is evolving. USA Today announced in June that Marriott has made the decision to strongly support franchisees’ use of modular construction in the development of appropriate brands. While largely recognized in Europe, modular construction has been notably slow to take off in the United States, encompassing just 3 percent of all construction in North America. That reality along with the hospitality industry’s historically low adaptation of the method begs the question, “What’s the hold-up here?”
In a world where people constantly look for more cost-effective and timely ways to deliver quality products–whether a hotel project or Apple’s new iPhone–at first glance, it is curious that modular construction has not already cemented itself as the new norm in the construction and development culture. However, what we have found through our experience with modular construction is that while the concept presents some distinct advantages, it is best used in certain circumstances and environments to achieve those advantages.
What is Modular Construction?
Modular buildings are sectional, prefabricated buildings that are manufactured in a factory and delivered to the job site in modular sections. For a hotel, the modules are typically one room in width and two rooms in depth and include the central corridor. These units are constructed in an enclosed facility where poor exterior environmental conditions do not hinder the construction timeline or quality. When factory production of the units is complete, they are then transported on trailers to the hotel location and sequentially staged for placement to create the hotel’s upper floors. Erection and placement of the modular units occur rapidly and is completed on most hotel projects within a week to ten days. A significant advantage in comparison to traditional construction practices is that modular construction could deliver units of higher finish quality and consistency.
Modular Construction at Washington State University
Our first venture into modular construction began in 2016 with a Courtyard by Marriott in Pullman, Wash., located on the Washington State University campus. As we researched further into the benefits of the practice, we continually asked ourselves how we could best get an objective opinion on the long-term feasibility of this construction method. Once we decided to pursue the modular route, we saw that there was an opportunity to involve hospitality and construction-focused students at WSU and give them hands-on exposure to a project in the field they had chosen to study.
Recruiting students from WSU’s Construction Management and Hospitality Management schools, we challenged them to test our hypothesis that modular construction is a viable method for hotel development in the future. We believed that it had merit; however, we wanted to obtain findings from an unbiased viewpoint and to see what these students would come up with in terms of cost/benefit analysis and whether modular construction is sustainable in the long term.
The students participated in a real-life, cutting-edge project with class sessions taught on the job site by professionals involved in the hotel project. Classes included a multi-day field trip to the modular fabrication plant. Faculty members from WSU’s Hospitality Management and Construction Management Schools jointly facilitated the class, which culminated in the presentation of the students’ findings to the Stonebridge executive team.
Some of the uncovered results are as follows:
Construction Schedule Compression
Because modular construction accelerates the completion of the building envelope, the overall project can be constructed in less time. The modular construction duration period from start of construction to hotel opening can be 30 percent to 40 percent less than conventional site-built construction. Buildings that typically take 12 to 14 months with traditional construction can be completed with a schedule ranging from 8 to 10 months with modular construction. This is partly due to the potential to significantly reduce site-related delays; the guestrooms are essentially complete upon placement. When properly designed and coordinated, modular construction also has the potential to reduce costs and has been reported to decrease design and construction time by approximately 30 percent to 50 percent with fewer change orders. As with many investment decisions, the ability to deliver product to market, reduce construction carry costs, and get “heads-in-beds” faster can significantly improve the property’s pro forma and increase the attractiveness of modular construction.
Once the modular units are designed and a production schedule is established, there is typically little variance in the production and on-site placement schedule. The controlled environment of the modular fabrication plant eliminates weather delays and subsequent impacts to completion of the building tower. However, the on-site preparation to receive and place the modular units requires careful scheduling and coordination to ensure that the modules are installed in an efficient manner. For a hotel with relatively few guestrooms on the ground floor, it is best to include those rooms in the conventional structure of the ground floor, and use modular units for the upper floors. For hotels with a large footprint and numerous ground-floor guestrooms, having those rooms constructed from modules can be advantageous.
Consistent Quality, Appearance, and Acoustic Performance
Modular fabricators are generally organized to achieve high efficiencies in design and production workflow. Modular buildings also abide by the same building codes as traditional construction. Consequently, modular construction delivers the same or superior quality, durability, and longevity as would be achieved with conventional construction. Since the modules are fabricated with a consistent work crew and staff within the modular factory, there is a great degree of consistency within the rooms in terms of finished quality.
The modules are constructed as individual units, which requires that each unit have separate walls on each side, as well as separate floor and ceiling assemblies. As a result, when the modules are placed side-by-side and stacked vertically, the guestrooms have walls, ceilings, and floors that are of double thickness. It is our expectation that the additional structure and insulation will provide improved acoustic separation between rooms as compared to conventional construction. As a result, we anticipate greater guest satisfaction.
Improved Pre-opening Labor Costs
As previously indicated, the modules are delivered to the site with the rooms essentially complete. During connection of the units and final construction of interior corridors, the rooms are sealed to prevent the incursion of dust and dirt that is produced during the finish work in the corridors and stairs. In this manner, the rooms are kept clean and require less effort to prepare for guest occupancy.
In Pullman, we found that one deep-cleaning pass was needed to get the rooms in guest-ready condition. In conventional construction, three to four passes are required by the hotel housekeeping staff to ready rooms for guests. This represents a significant savings in labor costs, and enables the hotel staff to focus on other aspects of preparing the hotel for opening. The decreased amount of required cleaning also represents further compression of the overall project schedule, allowing the hotel to open sooner than if constructed conventionally.
Where and When is Modular Best Applicable?
What Stonebridge and the WSU students ultimately concluded was aligned with what we had originally hoped for in terms of time effectiveness and quality. However, it is worth noting that the cost-effectiveness of this method is up for debate. Modular construction has a future–and it is here to stay, mostly due to the fact that it is able to save time on projects. From our experience, modular construction works best in terms of cost-effectiveness in an urban environment development where site constraints, logistics, and/or an environment with sub-contractor labor shortages are dominant factors. It should also be noted that modular construction does not lend itself well to all-suite products—it works best when applied to conventionally sized hotel rooms, due to construction and transportation constraints.
While it’s a known fact that the employment of modular construction has been historically low in the hotel construction sector, the recent support from Marriott and Hilton may help bring more awareness, acknowledgment, and, ultimately, an embrace of the concept into projects that fit the right criteria and environment. In retrospect, we also concluded that there is potential for further improvement of the modular process both in the fabrication plant and on-site, and that these improvements will increase the long-term viability for incorporating modular construction into future projects.
written by Navin Dimond, Dr. Nancy Swanger and Jason Peschel
The new Morgantown Marriott at Waterfront Place aims to engage with a millennial demographic as well as with the community it calls home.
The sleek brick-and-glass tower with its modern silhouette and pristine landscaping perched on Morgantown’s revitalized Wharf District has become something of an icon. For parents and new WVU students, tailgaters and tourists, natives and transplants traveling on Don Knotts Boulevard, the former Waterfront Place Hotel has been a landmark symbolizing Morgantown’s growing and ever-evolving business and tourism economy.
But when the hotel’s ownership changed hands in 2014, Morgantown didn’t bat an eyelash. Transformation is common—and essential— in this university city. And with the tourist demographic shifting toward younger, more affluent travelers, the hotel had to change to stay relevant, says Jennifer Millstone, director of sales and marketing. “We wanted to capture that millennial traveler. That’s an inventive customer, a business customer. It’s a new class with a little higher expectations. They don’t just come for business, they want to do different things and have experiences.”
Walk into the hotel tonight and you’ll be greeted at the door by prompt, courteous valets—and yes, valet service is complementary, even if you’re only coming for a cocktail. The lobby is crisp and subdued with dark wood, earth tones, and plenty of natural light from windows overlooking the riverfront. If it’s busy, you might be treated to a free bourbon tasting right there. A new Starbucks beckons with the smell of coffee and pastries to your left, but to your right, a flickering fire encased in glass, cozy seating, and a rustic wooden bar are too tempting to pass up. The warm glow of backlit bourbon bottles reminds you of the hotel’s new restaurant theme and name: Bourbon Prime.
If you aren’t staying the night, you’ll want to by the time you tuck into an appetizer and drinks. We recommend their unique twist on pepperoni rolls, wood-fired pizza, or the Snakebite Chili, with chunks of prime rib, sharp cheddar cheese, and scallions served with a dollop of sour cream.
The hotel’s new look is all about comfort, convenience, and a memorable experience, one that’s both familiar and unique, from the modern rooms with high-speed internet, 55- inch flat screens that can connect to all your streaming services, floating end tables, and luxurious laminate floors, to the outlets and purse hooks under every seat in the bar area and Bluetooth-enabled exercise equipment in the fitness center, to the posh hotel salon and spa, Olexa.
General Manager Neil Buffington says the hotel’s new owners, Stonebridge Companies near Denver, decided to go with a familiar brand as a base for the hotel’s transformation. “Stonebridge Companies has a long relationship with Marriott Hotels and, when they purchased the hotel, Marriott seemed liked the perfect fit for both North Central West Virginia and the Morgantown community.” The consensus was that Marriott’s new look and feel, with great room–style lobbies, modern room designs, hyperconnectivity, and unique dining experiences fit Morgantown’s esthetic perfectly.
Although renovations of the rooms and lobby didn’t fully begin until 2016, the planning and execution of the restaurant’s evolution, what would be the heart of the hotel, began almost right away. Its new concept, bourbon-infused, would completely rewrite the look, feel, and flavor of what was once the Regatta Bar and Grille and turn the culinary experience of the restaurant into something that stands out.
“The entire menu has been a two-year process,” says Tom Hawkins, director of food and beverage. What started as a steakhouse concept quickly evolved into something more open-ended that would speak to both the business traveler and the local looking for a bite. “The original concept was going to be Bourbon Prime Steakhouse, but we worried that, with the ‘steakhouse’ title attached to the name, it would be perceived as stuffy— white tablecloths and high costs.” Now, fun appetizers, hand-crafted sandwiches, and steaks complement an extensive bourbon, scotch, and whiskey menu—all at reasonable prices.
The menu also needed to capture the millennial customer who, Hawkins says, is often concerned about not only flavor and presentation—essential when a meal can be snapped, tweeted, or posted to the world in a matter of seconds—but also where it comes from, its story and culture. To answer that need, the restaurant turned to local farms, working with small producers like J.Q. Dickinson Salt-Works of Charleston, Rising Creek Bakery just over the border in Pennsylvania, and ThistleDew Farm in Proctor to supply ingredients for what Hawkins calls a menu based on “100 years of Appalachian flair.”
From blending their own bourbon in partnership with Woodford Reserve in Kentucky, the first establishment in the state to do so, to training their bartenders in the art of mixology, the new owners refused to skimp on details. That new bourbon flavor? It’s called Country Roads, of course. And the signature cocktail? Almost Heaven, a blend of Country Roads bourbon, cardamom bitters, and simple syrup, served in a smoked decanter.
Although the menu is still being refined, with a new executive chef soon to start, Hawkins says the focus on local food and seasonal items, along with bourbon infusion and the flavors of Appalachia, will remain the guiding principles. The local community, culture, and flair will remain up-front for guests to experience, too. “A key mission of each of associate, whether they are working at the front desk, Starbucks, or restaurant, is to engage the customer. We are their host. We want to ensure that their stay is memorable,” Millstone says.
Beyond the more obvious changes, one of the biggest transformations the hotel underwent was the training of the team. “Everyone worked tirelessly before the opening participating in self-paced computer training, facilitator-led webinars, and countless hours of in-person training and trial runs for the restaurant team,” Millstone says. “It was a lot of hard work, but in the end, the undertaking has been worth it. The comments we receive from guests are wonderful and very much appreciated.”
Unlike many chain hotels, she says, the newly redesigned hotel wants to be part of the community. That includes hosting community events and meetings, developing special dinners, and partnering with the WVU College of Business and Economics to bring hospitality and tourism management students in for internships and part-time jobs. This new culture is making an impact, and the largely millennial vote already seems to be in: Out of 369 full-service Marriott hotels worldwide, the Morgantown Marriott at Waterfront Place is now ranked third for customer service. 2 Waterfront Place, 304.296.1700,marriott.com/mgwmc
The Moxy Seattle Downtown will make its debut next month as the brand’s first West Coast property. The 146-key boutique hotel will open in the city’s South Lake Union neighborhood in close proximity to major attractions including Pike Place Market and the Space Needle.
Locally based architecture and design firm Ankrom Moisan will anchor the eight-floor hotel in a tech-centric design that includes a dynamic video wall in the 6,100-square-foot lobby. The vivacious lobby will feature a 24-hour grab-and-go counter, meeting areas, and a convivial bar. Ranging between 195 to 205 square feet, each guestroom will embrace an open storage concept, and be appointed with keyless entry and king beds elevated above motion-activated LED guide lights.
Additional amenities will include a nearly 800-square-foot, 24-hour fitness center, selfie elevators equipped with props, and onsite bike lockers.
Moxy Hotel opens at the corner of Boren and Republican in South Lake Union—right in the heart of Amazonland—in the next few months. The hotel is the first of Mariott’s Moxy line, a little more affordable and targeted to a younger demographic, on the West Coast.
Moxy takes a kookier look at hotels than the more dignified Marriott, with a brand busy with stuff like calling the general manager the “captain” and decor with slogans lifted right off Etsy.
Seattle’s version of the hotel will have 146 guestrooms, ranging from 195 to 205 square feet, each with a king-size bed, a 42-inch TV (with Netflix and Hulu), and a two-person rain shower.
Like many recent boutique hotels aimed at younger crowds, the interiors take a posh and peppy take on the Old Seattle lumberjack vibe. One exposed wood wall houses the TV and serves as a hanging point for shelves and art.
Opposite, an exposed grain headboard builds in shelves for nightstands, matching a platform bed. Underbed LED lights are motion-activated.
The linens and the opposite wall are more of a muted, slate tone.
A virtual tour of a Moxy space doesn’t exactly match the Seattle design, but gives an idea of the general look and feel. (A virtual tour is embedded below, but may not show up for Apple News viewers.) Click here to view Virtual Reality Tour.
The hotel will have a 24-hour fitness center and grab-and-go snack bar. Like many apartment buildings targeting similar demographics, it will also feature bike lockers. Elevators will double as selfie stations, complete with props.
The hotel is set to open in late 2017 or early 2018.
Construction is wrapping up on an eight-story hotel in the heart of South Lake Union, and the pink accents on the dark exterior subtly suggest whimsy.
This subtleness is sucked out of the air when the hotel general manager, Jerry Stotler, starts talking about the hotel, the West Coast’s first Moxy, and the South Lake Union neighborhood he renamed “Swanktown” a couple years ago.
“I’m kind of known as the mayor,” said Stotler, the gregarious Seattle hospitality industry veteran who holds weekly “town meetings” in the bar of Republic just down the street from the 146- room Moxy.
Set to open in mid-December at 1016 Republican St., Moxy is Marriott International’s new boutique brand for budget-savvy travelers who like to mingle.
“It’s somewhat of an upscale hostel experience,” said Stotler.
Over there, he said pointing to a spot in the lobby, is where the teeter-totter will go. Stotler calls it the first hotel lobby seesaw in the world. When guests, or “fun seekers,” arrive, they’ll be served a Moxy cocktail: Bacardi Dragon Berry run with lime juice, cherry bitters and a splash of red wine served with a paper zebra straw.
These and other touches, along with “furiously fast” Wi-Fi, ooze sexy and smart, and are intended to make Moxy stand out from the slew of other hotels opening in Seattle. Visit Seattle, the region’s tourism group, anticipates 3,000 new hotel rooms over the next few years in anticipation of the $1.6 billion addition to the Washington State Convention Center.
Moxy rooms average 200 square feet. There are no closets and no dressers but hooks where guests hang their clothes and gear. King-size beds sit on a pathway of motion-activated LED lights that guide people to the bathroom in the middle of the night.
In the lobby guests will be able to flip through a vinyl music collection as Instagram feeds from around the world scroll over four 40-inch screens. There will be trivia nights and other events, and grab-and-go food and drink – local juices, Beecher’s Mac & Cheese and Re:public-made breakfast and lunch wraps.
Stotler, who has 30 years of experience in the hotel industry, was so smitten by the light- hearted, fun character of the Moxy brand that he resigned as general manager of the upscale Hotel Bellevue to take the job. He said it’s as though Marriott “built a brand for me.”
For its Twitter takeover strategy, Renaissance New York Midtown received a Best of the Best (BOB) nod in our 2017 Social Hotel Awards.
At first, the thought of a stranger hijacking your hotel’s social media for the day seems like the ultimate PR nightmare. But that’s because you’re not thinking with the gusto of the Renaissance New York Midtown, which did just that via a Twitter takeover courtesy of musician Confidence Killion.
It wasn’t just a fly by night effort. Guidelines for Killion, whom the hotel put up complimentary during his four-day tweeting escapade, included the number of tweets he should produce while there (six to eight photos and two to four videos using the specific hashtags, #renhotels, #nycmidtown and #itsmeConfidence) as well as a focus on sharing any food, drink, and art he experienced during his stay
The biggest challenge? According to Justin Ellison, director of guest services for Renaissance New York Midtown, it’s making sure that the influencer’s followers actually follow them to your hotel’s account for the takeover. To try to avoid that, the Renaissance had Killion tweet several times the week before the takeover event asking his followers to come along for the ride.
Social takeovers can have kinks, but, according to Justin Ellison, director of guest services for Renaissance New York Midtown, in the end, they’re worth it.
“Having an influencer do a takeover generates a huge amount of engagement, whether it’s retweets, comments, likes or follows,” Ellison says. “Takeovers can really show the style and service level of your hotel in a way you have been able to before – through the eyes of a guest who is seeing your accommodations and service for the first time.”
A four-day “Twitter Takeover” at Renaissance New York Midtown (via musician Confidence Killion, pictured) generated 10,432 in impressions and 4.7% engagement on the hotel’s account.
The plan: Partner with Confidence Killion and Black Label Records to host a Twitter Takeover on Renaissance New York Midtown’s account. Target goals set were 5K in impressions during the four days of the takeover and an engagement rate of 3%. Twitter was chosen as the channel was struggling with gaining followers and reaching peak engagement levels for the hotel.
The practice: The hotel asked Killion to state to his followers that he would be taking over our Twitter account for four days in the week before he did. The culmination of the takeover was a live performance in the hotel’s lobby bar, parts of which were also featured on Twitter.
The payoff: Before the campaign, the property had roughly 2,500 impressions a week on its Twitter account, with 1.4% engagement. The four-day campaign generated 10,432 in impressions and 4.7% engagement on the account.
By: Chloe Riley
Originally appeared in WVU Today in September, 2017
When students in West Virginia University’s Hospitality and Tourism Management program landed internships and employment at a local Morgantown hotel that was ramping up to become a Marriott, they knew it would be a great deal of work. They knew it would be a great deal of commitment. And they knew it would require them to focus entirely on the Marriott brand that had become an international standard.
What they didn’t know is how much it would benefit them as they work toward entering the industry where they plan to make their marks, an industry that sees $2.7 billion in direct spending by resident and international travelers in this country every day, according to the U.S. Travel Association. As students at the WVU College of Business and Economics, they can take advantage of the business school’s relationships ranging from the world-renowned Greenbrier to Hilton, from Disney to Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, and from Snowshoe Mountain Resort to IHG — as well as a number of other resorts, hotels, outdoor recreational companies and restaurants.
As luck would have it, the Waterfront Place Hotel right in the students’ back yard in Morgantown was undergoing a two year-long process to become a Marriott hotel, the Morgantown Marriott at Waterfront Place. The property, owned by Stonebridge Companies, had served as a “learning lab” since the inception of the WVU program in the fall of 2014 in response to the hospitality and tourism industry’s prominent place in West Virginia’s economy. In the latter part of 2016, students were propelled into an international brand and, perhaps, the opportunity of a lifetime.
“We work with several international brands, and there is no question Marriott is one of the most recognized brands in the world,” said Frank DeMarco, teaching associate professor in the Hospitality and Tourism Management program. “Marriott International has more than 6,000 properties and is a $17 billion company. We knew this represented a great opportunity for students.”
Nobody knows that more than 21-year-old B&E student Matthew Smith, a senior from Damascus, Maryland, and a Stonebridge scholarship recipient. Smith has excelled so quickly at the property that, as an intern and employee, he was promoted to front desk supervisor this past summer.
“I am responsible for ensuring that our guests enjoy their stay in Morgantown while holding up the Marriott standards. Throughout April of this year, our team spent about 40 hours per week working directly with Marriott trainers that helped us through the opening process,” Smith said. “These days consisted of classroom-style lectures followed by role play examples that allowed us to directly apply what we learned.”
And Smith is a classic example of someone who has benefitted from the program’s experiential learning. He has participated in a market research study team and has analyzed reports that tell him how a hotel is performing in a specific market. He looks at data that include occupancy, average daily rates and revenues.
Recent graduate Brianna Austin, who grew up in the shadow of The Greenbrier, is currently working at Stonebridge’s corporate offices in Englewood, Colorado, in the real estate and property development sector. A double-major undergraduate in hospitality and tourism management and accounting and an August MBA graduate, she has made the most of her time in transition to the Marriott and in working for the ownership group.
“I started out at the Waterfront Place Hotel in September 2015 as a sales and marketing intern, then moved to a rooms division intern the following January of 2016. The new internship allowed me to start out in housekeeping, then to valet, and finally to the front desk,” the 23-year-old Austin said. “This gave me a better sense of how each department works together and communicates with one another. After that I started working at the front desk part time, then eventually full time. I also made it a point to work in the restaurant as well as in the banquets department whenever they needed extra help.”
Chris Manley, Stonebridge’s chief operating officer, is a firm believer that the hotel is an instrumental classroom, and its transition into Marriott is an invaluable learning opportunity. “The future of the hospitality industry resides in the students within our education institutions,” said Manley, who serves on B&E’s Hospitality and Tourism Management Advisory Council. “Our investment in the Morgantown community provides a great vehicle for a mutually beneficial partnership with WVU. As hospitality professionals progress through their careers, they rarely have an opportunity to participate in the transformation of one community institution into a new and improved product. The experience has been very uplifting, and the scholars’ influence and excitement in the process has been noticeable,” he said.
For students, Marriott has been a family-led brand for nearly 90 years that has properties in 122 countries and territories. That, Manley said, opens up a world of opportunity for them.
“While the fundamentals of operating a boutique and brand hotel are similar, there is a reason that Marriott has grown to be the largest hospitality company in the world,” he said. “They have the systems, processes and resources available to maximize the guest experience and deliver the ‘Distinguished Hospitality’ for which Stonebridge is known. A scholar graduating with the additional hands-on experience of a Marriott project can add insight and value to any future hotel immediately, whether it be in Morgantown or Manhattan.”
WVU business school student Amanda Baer, 20, of Charles Town, West Virginia, has taken the approach of getting a food and beverage job at the hotel to help prepare her for what is ahead. A double-major in hospitality and tourism management and marketing, she hopes to secure an internship for the upcoming spring semester.
“Working at the hotel during the transition was very rewarding,” said Baer. “I learned how to work through the big changes. I got to meet many new people who told me about their experience working for Marriott and how they got to where they are today. It was a very influential experience.”
Morgantown Marriott General Manager Neil Buffington said the hospitality transition experience sticks with a person, and that he is living proof of that. “Anytime someone in the industry or a student studying the industry gets a chance to transition a property from an independent to a brand, they should cherish the experience. If these students stay in hospitality, it won’t be the last time they renovate and transition a hotel or restaurant. Having this experience will help with the next transition where they will be better prepared and can share their knowledge with those with less experience. The Morgantown Marriott project was my second hotel renovation and it went much smoother with the experience I gained on the first.”
Experience is key, plain and simple. DeMarco said students in the program are required to complete two internships, so that they will be competitive in the industry after graduation and be able to compete for a leadership role. Each internship is comprised of 150 hours of on-site work.
“The internship experience enables students to apply the principles they learn in the classroom in a business environment,” he said. “To be a successful leader in the industry, you need to put into practice what you’re learning.”
And these future business leaders believe the experience with an international brand has served them the world on a silver platter.
“Marriott International is a brand that has endless opportunities,” Smith said. “With hotels across the world, there is no limit to the number of jobs that are available. For a motivated student and associate like myself, Marriott has everything that I could ever want. The company’s training and voyager programs offer great opportunities for recent college graduates within the hospitality industry.”
Austin said, “I plan to continue learning as much as possible to figure out what my strengths are in the hospitality industry. The position that I am currently in allows me to learn about the other side of hotels and gives me an appreciation for the work I do every day. I have found that I really enjoy the operations aspect of hotels and hope to one day manage a property that provides a high level of service.”
“I have learned so much about the hotel industry and use a lot of my knowledge from class to help me excel at work as well. What I learn in class closely correlates to what I do at work, and absolutely puts me a step ahead of everyone else,” said Baer.
Buffington said that WVU’s program is rich with outstanding students, and that their experiences at the Marriott are helping to launch their careers. “There are some incredible students graduating from the program,” he said. “Many students stay on at the hotel after their internships, and relationships grow. And many will have opportunities to start their careers after graduation at Morgantown Marriott or another Stonebridge property.”
In the end, DeMarco said, it’s all about the educational experiences students now have and what that means for life after college. “At WVU’s business school, we are encouraging students to study abroad to experience different cultures. Our association with Marriott gives our students an additional dimension of opportunities for international travel, and to interact with international guests and learn about their cultures,” he said. “This hotel becoming a Marriott also allows our students to access the Marriott Global Source resource, which has by far the best training and development resources in the industry.”
Buffington said, “These students are getting experience and training the Marriott way, a way that has developed since the first Marriott hotel opened in 1957. They also get to put Marriott on their resume, which gives them a huge advantage over college graduates who may have gone to schools without the relationships WVU has.”
Navin C. Dimond, who founded Stonebridge Companies 25 years ago, serves as its president and CEO, overseeing the company’s development and investment functions from its Denver, Colo., headquarters. He says the positive growth of the company, which now employs nearly 3,000 associates and owns and/or operates over 50 hotels nationwide, is to a great extent due to its staff-supported hospitality culture and a commitment to service. “Our hotels remain true to our culture of delivering ‘Distinguished Hospitality.’ We have a team of enthusiastic people who create a respectful and enjoyable work atmosphere, and come in every day focused and ready to provide unparalleled service to our guests.”
How did you get your start in the hotel industry?
I consider myself an “accidental hotelier.” It was not by design. I initially founded Stonebridge Companies to own and operate a shopping center in Arvada, Colo. At the time, I was less interested in the hotel industry and more interested in other types of real estate, like office, retail, and warehouse. But when an opportunity came in 1991 to purchase the Bronco Inn motel, I was intrigued by the property’s potential. Charting unknown territory came with its set of adversities and risk, but I was dedicated and driven. In the beginning, my wife and I did much of the work ourselves, which gave me a better appreciation for the industry and associates. From that point forward, the company grew in both properties and staff.
What are the benefits of modular building, and how might it meet the needs of the hospitality industry?
Labor shortages and pricing are driving alternative forms of delivery, which is where modular building can be a potential solution, especially in urban locations. While the current pricing is not necessarily less expensive than traditional construction, there are significant benefits in both a shortened construction time and increased construction quality. We ourselves recently used modular building methods for a Courtyard Marriott located on the campus of Washington State University (WSU) in Pullman, Wash. In addition, as part of a research and development project for Stonebridge, we engaged construction management and hospitality and business management students from WSU to test the hypothesis that modular construction is a viable technique for future hotel construction. We challenged these students and faculty to come to their own conclusions on the cost-benefit analysis of the long-term viability of modular construction in the hospitality industry, and I was very proud to have students from my alma mater participate in the project.
What are some challenges you’ve encountered when growing staff and how are they best managed?
Stonebridge is always looking for associates who have a genuine passion for both hospitality and creating memorable experiences for our guests. In companies with a growth trajectory like Stonebridge, managing an expanding team is a top priority. Growth within our company presents unique opportunities for existing associates to take the next leap in their career development.
Is your leadership team mostly home grown?
One of the four tenets of our mission statement is “careers,” with a focus on team member development. Stonebridge’s best leaders are constantly spending time mentoring fellow associates to help them achieve the next phase of their career. Our human resource initiatives are focused on personal and professional growth. They include continuous training, competitive benefits and compensation, rewards for performance, and celebrating successes at every level.
What do you like best about working in the hotel industry?
We are an industry that achieves success from the positive energy generated through people serving people. Whether it’s our leadership team or our associates, there has been a dedication in Stonebridge Companies to provide our unique “Distinguished
Hospitality” to our guests for 25 years.