Originally appeared in the Denver Business Journal in January, 2016
Question: How is the current construction boom in Denver and the shortage of skilled craft labor affecting hospitality development?
SCOTT CONRAD, Swinerton Builders: Part of the challenge that we are facing in the current construction boom is that two of the healthiest sectors – hospitality and multifamily- use many of the same subcontractors, putting pressure on both markets. Swinerton does a few things to hedge the skilled craft labor shortage: Rrst, our subcontractor prequalification process goes beyond evaluating the subcontractor’s financial wherewithal and prior history; we closely analyze other aspects like manpower availability, crew sizing, previous project experience and reference checking to ensure all of our subcontractors have the resources necessary to build and staff a project. A second thing we do is build appropriate conservatism into our project schedules. For example, as a result of the thin labor market we may increase the schedule duration by 10 percent in order to set realistic expectations for the client. We present real information about market conditions, not just what the client wants to hear.
STEVE COHEN, Otten Johnson: One observation is that contractors (together with architects and other design professionals) are in such high demand right now that they have more leverage to push back on contracts, both from a business and legal standpoint. In the past when those same service providers may have been begging for work … they wouldn’t necessarily have had the same negotiating power that they currently have. That goes to some of the points that Scott is mentioning, including the ability for a contractor to argue the need for its construction contract to contain a more conservative construction schedule based on lack of availability of manpower, etc.
WILLIAM UBILL” SIPPLE, HVS Capital Corp: One of the positives of a labor shortage is that the higher costs and the increased time on projects is a natural governor to supply growth.
Q: What are your general observations about the current level of supply and demand in the metro Denver lodging market?
MIKE CAHILL, HREC – Hospitality Real Estate Counselors: In 2014, metro Denver’s occupancy of 75.4 percent was 17.1 percent higher than the national average. Today we’re seeing occupancy growth of 2.2 percent from June 2014. Denver’s RevPAR (room revenue per available room) grew 16 percent in 2014 from 2013, far outpacing the national average percentage growth of 8.3 percent. Denver was one of only two markets in the top 25 to rank in the top third for percentage growth in 2014 in occupancy, average daily rate and RevPAR. Things are very strong – the big picture is that Denver metro area is thriving.
Q: What are your thoughts about the Denver hospitality market going forward, from a macroeconomic perspective?
BENJAMIN UBEN” KURUVILA, U.S. Bank: US Bank is still very bullish on Denver, especially the CBD (Central Business District) and DIA. In both of those submarkets you see occupancies in the 85 to 90 percent range, so there’s opportunity for new supply. We’re not underwriting to those upper 80 percent ranges, but we’re also not underwriting to national averages of 65 percent. Yes, Denver is going to soften eventually, but we’re expecting it to plateau at somewhere around a 75 percent range. Historically Denver would have been more of a national average type market. It has outperformed the national average in recent years as Denver has become more of a tier 1 city.
CAHILL: When you take a step back – because we sell hotels all over the country- and you look at Denver, there are different groups of buyers out there. We may take an institutional first-class property to market here in Denver and have 120 people looking at it. We may lose half of that – the nervous nellies who are worried about new supply, but there are a lot of other people in the United States saying Denver is a great place to have my money. It’s diversified and has so many great things going for it. But it depends on the type of buyer. A value-added flipper is not going to get a call about downtown Denver right now.
Q: Several new hotels have opened recently in downtown Denver, including Hyatt Place and Hyatt House, Renaissance, Crawford Hotel and Aloft, with more under development. At what point does supply exceed demand in the downtown market?
CHRIS MANLEY, Stonebridge Companies: One thing that’s pretty impressive is that downtown grew occupancy by 2.2 percent (from June 2014 to June 2015) despite the headwinds of the oil and gas industry, which has a tremendous presence downtown and softened considerably in the last 12 months. That just goes to the fact that it’s exciting to be downtown, with all the amenities. This is a place people want to be.
COHEN: There’s no arguing that the hotel sector looks great right now from the operational side and it seems likely that the positive news will continue for some period of time. As Chris points out, occupancy continues to grow, and operators are continuing to see positive rate increases. I think the real issue from an investor’s perspective is whether all of this positive news is too good, causing hotels to be overpriced in some instances. Among my clients, I believe there is a real question as to whether now is the right time to be a hotel buyer in light of the high prices that hotels are selling for.
SIPPLE: That translates into the debt markets, too. Lenders are much more concerned with supply growth than they’ve ever been, and they’re trying to underwrite it and get a handle on it. What you’r.e seeing is that supply growth is going to translate into higher debt costs in the marketplace.
Q: Anything new about your criteria in success fully underwriting a hotel construction project in metro Denver?
KURUVILA: On the construction side, the lending market for hospitality has remained constrained and conservative throughout this cycle. Many banks were hurt by hospitality through the downturn, so now hospitality construction financing is sponsor-driven. Lending constraints will only increase as banks wrap their arms around increased regulation. On the term lending side, that’s a much more fluid space.
COHEN: It certainly seems better to be a borrower these days than it was three or four years ago, and I think there is more available debt (and better pricing for borrowers) that goes directly to the bottom line for underwriting purposes. I’d note that it’s also better to be a borrower’s lawyer than it was just a few years ago. All of sudden, you can actually have some discussions about certain provisions of the loan documents that you might not have raised when there were so few lenders making hotel loans. A few years ago a client might have said: “Don’t push too hard on this. We don’t want you to blow this deal because we don’t have a lot of other lender options.” It seems to me that now borrowers (and their lawyers) have a bit more swagger. It’s still conservative underwriting, but at least the lenders are engaging more discussions. It’s all becoming a bit more balanced.
Q: Is the nature of the hotel product in Denver changing, given the current supply and demand trends?
SIPPLE: You’re seeing a better acceptance in the Denver market than a lot of other markets with boutique-type projects. That’s one of the things about Denver and goes to the whole nature of what Denver is about and what people are looking for. .. such as the number of people who want – to live downtown. And it’s not just millennia ls.
Q: When can we expect more of these lifestyle brand names to come here and be successful?
MANLEY: Consumers over the next 24 months are going to be presented with many new options in lifestyle brands, which are unique, cutting-edge, and trendy. It’s the AC (Marriott), the Canopy (Hilton), the Curio (Hilton) collection. The brands have expanded their offerings to attract new types of customers. Everyone is targeting millennials, who have a growing amount of wealth and a propensity to spend it on travel.
KURUVILA: Everyone is looking for an experience. I don’t think the millennial traveler is looking for the exact same hotel in each city. They want something unique – something that’s “the great hotel in Denver.” … As a lender, there’s added risk to financing a boutique flag -less robust reservation system, less national data to rely on, and lack of nationally recognizable flag. But some of these lifestyle brands that the major flags are starting to distribute – we’re getting more comfortable with those.
Q: We are seeing more “dual brand” hotels. Are there unique design or construction characteristics to be considered with these types of properties?
MANLEY: The dual brand is a trend we’re seeing, especially in urban markets Hke downtown Denver where land is very expensive. We brought the first dual brand to downtown Denver at 15th and Welton -a combination Hampton Inn and Homewood Suites. Three hundred rooms would have been too much supply for one particular brand, but by bifurcating it into two distinct brands, we can offer different price points, different service levels and different products than we would have with a single hotel. You have bene-fits on construction because you share back-of-house, elevators, common areas and amenities, which lowers your construction cost per room.
CONRAD: Our most recent hotel projects have both been dual branded-the Hyatt House and Hyatt Place and 14th and Welton, and next month we break ground on the Starwood Le Meridian and the Marriott AC Hotel at 15th and California. Not only are high-rise hotels in urban settings a fun challenge to build, we partner with our clients to deliver those shared back-of-house spaces Chris (Manley) mentioned to help the overall development pro forma.
Q: Is hospitality in Denver at a point where it can be considered another accepted asset class for institutional investors?
MANLEY: The availability of capital now for hospitality, be it debt or equity, has increased substantially. It used to be that institutional money wanted one of the four food groups -office, industrial, multifamily or retail. Hospitality was this awkward asset class that had a perceived risk people wanted to stay away from. Now, whether people are looking for yield, or whether they’re getting more comfortable with the fluctuations or volatility of cash flow, you’re seeing more people look at hospitality than would have looked at it in previous cycles.
CAHILL: You have to look at the big picture. What you’re seeing now is that lenders are active, but even though interest rates are low, they are much more disciplined. That’s constrained supply and has fueled RevPAR growth. So between increasing construction costs and lenders remaining disciplined, overall new supply is not as near i:. bad as it’s been in past cycles, which is good for Denver.
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.
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.
Established in 2014 through a generous gift, the Rita and Navin Dimond Fellows Program affords participants the opportunity to gain hands-on experience from a paid internship at a Stonebridge Companies property in Denver for a semester. The fellowship is open twice a year to seniors majoring in hospitality at MSU Denver.
“The experience was great,” Lawrence said. “You might study something in a book, or even be working in the field already – but the Dimond fellowship is what tied it all together to graduate ready and prepared for whatever comes your way.”
Now employed as a sales specialist/manager with Aloft Denver Downtown, Lawrence recalled how her fellowship at the refurbished Renaissance Denver Downtown City Center hotel gave her a comprehensive look at everything from revenue management to housekeeping’s rationale for placing pens facing the direction they do on the complimentary notepads.
One particular instance left Lawrence both experienced – and waterlogged. On a chilly night, a laundry chute blowing cold air caused pipes to freeze in the property’s basement. The lead engineer arrived right before the sprinkler system was about to burst and hit the emergency shutoff, capping the damage to minor flooding that only required replacing ceiling tiles (and soggy wardrobe changes for the housekeeping staff).
“There was so much standing water as it was, but that [sprinkler system] puts out 30 gallons a minute – it could’ve been so much worse,” said Lawrence. “Seeing how things like that are handled, along with reading the control panels and running supervisory procedures with the front desk, was invaluable.”
Another important benefit is the program’s accompanying professional network. Launching Stonebridge Properties in 1991, the Dimonds have grown the business into a a nationwide innovative hotel owner, operator and developer that boasts more than 50 properties and is headquartered near Denver.
And for Fall 2017 Dimond fellows Blair Swartz, Brittany Collier, Kaylee Crandall and Kenzie Talbot, it’s an opportunity to shine – at a scale that’s hard to find anywhere else.
“As a result of this experience, I’m confident in my abilities and have been able to show what I’m capable of,” said Lawrence.
On any given day, that might include logistics for a cosmetics company that airlifted in models for a mountain photo shoot. Or turning a hotel lobby into a concert venue.
To this latter point, Aloft regularly hosts live music in its entrance, where bands set up on the floor. Instead of acts playing at eye-level to guests, Lawrence suggested taking advantage of the room’s split floor setup. By removing two large panels flanking the sides, musicians were able to set up on the makeshift mezzanine to elevate their performance – and the audience experience.
“It worked out great; attendees really got the sense of being at a concert, and the band felt awesome playing from the stage,” Lawrence said. “My sales director told me, ‘This is exactly why I hired you.’”
It’s an unlikely journey from broken pipes to elevating vocalists – but for Dimond fellows, it’s all about expecting the unexpected.
And what about that car that needed to get downstairs?
As the mantra goes, the customer – who needed the luxury vehicle on a lower level of the hotel property for a photo shoot – is always right.
“We ended up driving it down a mountain path, onto the patio, where we unhinged the doors and maneuvered it to where the client wanted it,” said Lawrence.
“Every single day is about figuring out creative and better solutions to unexpected problems. And that’s exactly what the Dimond fellowship is all about.”
By: Cory Phare
Set a pace that suits you at the Residence Inn by Marriott® Boston-Needham. Whether you’re with us for a few days, a few weeks, or a few months, your daily routine matters. You’ll thrive at Residence Inn with the conveniences you need. Like spacious studio and one-bedroom suites with separate living and sleeping areas. A fully equipped kitchen ready for your favorite cuisine. Complimentary grocery delivery service to fill your refrigerator and satisfy cravings. Complimentary Internet to keep you connected. Free hot breakfast to start mornings off right and evening reception to end the day well. Enjoy our state-of-the-art fitness center for strengthening your body and soul. Our convenient 24-hour Business Center allows you to stay focused and productive when it’s essential. At the Residence Inn Boston-Needham, we’ll make sure you thrive during your stay.
SEATTLE – November 29, 2017 – The 302-suite Residence Inn by Marriott in downtown Seattle is scheduled to open this Friday, December 1, 2017. Located at 1815 Terry Avenue, the all-suite Residence Inn Seattle Downtown/Convention Center will operate as a Marriott franchise, owned and managed by Stonebridge Companies of Centennial, Colorado.
Located in the heart of downtown and 14 miles from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, the Residence Inn Seattle Downtown/Convention Center offers its guests convenient access to the Space Needle, Pike Place Market and the Washington State Convention Center. Rates vary depending on length of stay.
“We are pleased with the continued growth of Residence Inn hotels in the Seattle area,” said Diane Mayer, vice president and global brand manager, Residence Inn. “When on the road for an extended period, our guests need space to spread out, maintain their life’s pace and restore their energy to help them maintain a healthy balance and routine while traveling. This new hotel offers them a seamless blend of modern style and functionality that allows them to settle in and thrive.”
Residence Inn Seattle Downtown/Convention Center is an all-suite hotel that offers studio and one-bedroom suites. Guests looking for a revitalizing sleep experience will enjoy the hotel’s plush mattresses and crisp linens, while guests focused on being productive will value their suite’s large, well-lit work desk, ergonomic chair and complimentary high-speed Internet access. Designed for stays of five nights or more, each suite also has a fully equipped kitchen with a coffeemaker, microwave oven and residential-sized appliances.
The Residence Inn Seattle Downtown/Convention Center rotates a wide selection of healthy choices at the free hot breakfast every morning. Start with favorites like bacon and eggs, Greek yogurt, cut fruit or waffles and make your choice unique with extensive toppings, ranging from fresh spinach and cheese to sliced almonds and strawberries. Enjoy all the options needed to start the morning with endless possibilities.
Extending the feeling of comfortable living on the road, the Residence Inn Seattle Downtown/Convention Center offers guests inviting and functional public spaces to relax or collaborate. Road warriors and families alike enjoy the hotel’s grocery delivery service, complimentary Wi-Fi, 24-hour onsite food and beverage market, dry cleaning services, and onsite guest laundry room. The hotel also maintains a business library where guests can fax, copy and print materials. It also provides guests with a fitness center and 7,000 square feet of meeting space.
Home2 Suites by Hilton Anchorage/Midtown is conveniently located in the heart of Midtown Anchorage, near lots of shopping and dining options, and is only three miles East of Ted Stevens International Airport.
Feel at home in a spacious studio or one-bedroom suite at this extended-stay hotel in Anchorage. The flexible “Working Wall” incorporates a customizable working space, adaptable storage options and a contemporary kitchenette – complete with dishwasher, microwave, refrigerator, coffee maker and all the crockery and cutlery you’ll need. Connect to your social network with free WiFi, play music through the media hub, and channel surf on the 42-inch flat-screen TV. Refresh in the stylish bathroom, which features a walk-in shower. Don’t leave your pet at home – they are more than welcome at this all-suite hotel in Anchorage, AK. Join us each morning for free breakfast at our Inspired Table™. Shop for snacks, drinks and essentials 24/7 at Home2 MKT®, or take advantage of our free grocery delivery service.
Make the most of your leisure time at this Anchorage, AK, hotel. Relax on the inviting outdoor patio, which features comfy seating and tables, a fire pit and BBQ grills. Charge your smart device and connect with friends in the Oasis lounge area, and print documents with PrinterOn in the business center. Take a dip in the indoor swimming pool and hot tub, unwind poolside on a lounger, or do some laundry while you work out in our integrated laundry/fitness facility, Spin2Cycle.
Experience Seattle’s unique, creative energy from our brand new hotel. Built from the ground up and designed with style, comfort and added amenities, this hotel merges functionality with an urban lifestyle. Maximize your extended stay in our apartment-style suites, with the convenience of a fully equipped kitchen. After an active day of work or adventure in the Pacific Northwest mountains , kick back with friends while enjoying a cold craft beer and local cuisine at our lobby bar.
Our hotel lets business travelers walk just a few steps to attend conferences, trade shows and networking events at the Washington Convention Center. The hotel is only few blocks from Pike Place Market, the Space Needle, Safeco Field and cruise terminals. Plus, you’ll discover why Seattle is the cultural and business center of the Pacific Northwest, just being a few steps to the Capitol Hill residential district, Amazon Campus, Boeing and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
Every morning, fuel up for the day ahead with our complimentary hot breakfast featuring the nation’s best Coffee selection, then check the latest headlines via our free property-wide Wi-Fi. In-between meetings or outdoor adventures, work up a sweat at our fitness center with state of the art equipment. Our hotel offers 4 well-appointed event rooms ideal for social events and professional meetings. Book your stay today and discover the city at the Residence Inn Seattle Downtown.
Residence Inn by Marriott Seattle Downtown/ Convention Center
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.