Six years after Stonebridge Companies debuted the first dual-branded hotel in Denver, it is opening another such facility in the downtown area today — one that incorporates improvements it learned from its first attempt at a style of hotel that is becoming more popular as developers seek to achieve a maximum return on investment for high-priced land in space-limited urban cores.
The Tru by Hilton/Home2 Suites by Hilton Denver Downtown Convention Center located on the corner of 15th and Stout streets includes 382 total rooms, 3,300 square feet of meeting space and a Tempo Bar that officials hope will become a gathering place both for hotel guests and for people heading out to a nearby Denver Center for the Performing Arts play or Denver Nuggets game. It also has a shared front desk, a shared lobby and shared breakfast space — common areas for patrons of both brands that came about as a result of six years of learning in the Hampton Inn/Homewood Suites hotel that sits just two blocks southeast of it.
When that facility opened in 2013, the Denver-headquartered company attempted to differentiate the two brands by having separate check-in stations and separate food areas that it felt would reflect the different sensibilities of customers who tended to frequent the brands, both of which are owned by Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. (NYSE: HLT). What it found, though, was that the initial set-up could cause confusion or even frustration among customers, who just wanted to get to their rooms or grab their waffles, said Brandyn Gibson, who helped to open that first experiment and serves as the director of sales and marketing for the new hotel.
Like that 6-year-old hotel, Stonebridge's newest venture combines a pair of Hilton brands that tend to attract different crowds. Tru offers rooms of about 200 square feet and an expansive lobby, making it popular with younger travelers who are looking to spend as little time as possible where they sleep and want to mingle in a common area and then get out into the city. Home2 Suites is an extended stay property with a kitchen in each room and facilities like washing machines for business or leisure travelers planning to stay for more than a day or two.
Bundling the brands should help the property, whose construction costs officials declined to reveal, to cast a wider net and draw a bigger crowd — both transient travelers here for a business meeting or extended weekend, and conventioneers or contract workers coming to the city for a week or more, dual general manager Scott Perry said in an interview. And that is key at a time when new hotels are opening in downtown Denver about every few months, making the competition for guests that much more intense.
"It just provides us more flexibility with our travelers. It gives us appeal to more travelers," Perry said. "For our location, we're not just relevant for one segment of guests, so we're not going to be afraid to do what we can to bring in everyone."
While floors eight through 21 house guest rooms, much of the seventh floor is taken up by a ballroom that can be divided into two segments, a boardroom meeting area and a pre-function area that provides mingling space for groups planning events there. Gibson said he expects the meeting areas to host small conferences and corporate gatherings more than the weddings that other downtown hotels rely on for revenue, but with an open view of the downtown area and the mountains beyond, he believes some office and other parties will find the space appealing as well.
Hotel officials did a semi-surprising dry run on the facility Tuesday night, as they offered to let sales personnel and other staffers spend the night there rather than require them to drive home in the snowstorm and come back early the next morning. Perry said it served as a testing opportunity for everything from using room amenities to learning which breakfast-buffet items were popular and which ones weren't.
"I'm glad I was the first person in my room, because sometimes you see things better from the guest perspective," noted Perry, who tried all of the gadgets and learned what was easy to work and what wasn't. "It's a fun experience, running up and down the halls. It's the last time we can scream in the night here, I guess."
By: Ed Sealover