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Marriott to run downtown GR hotel

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Marriott to run downtown hotel

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

By Chris Knape

The Grand Rapids Press

The largest privately owned addition to the Grand Rapids skyline in more than a decade will carry the Marriott name when it opens in 2007.

Alticor Inc. is announcing a deal today with Marriott International Inc. to bring the upscale Marriott Hotels &Resorts brand to a new downtown hotel across from the Amway Grand Plaza.

The hotel, with 300 to 400 rooms, is a cornerstone in the effort to attract more business to the DeVos Place convention center.

Marriott's international sales force, strong reputation and customer loyalty should bring more people to downtown Grand Rapids, said Steve Wilson, president of the Grand Rapids/Kent County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

"Meeting planners are looking at what flag is flying next to the convention center at the nearby hotel," he said.

Alticor's relationship with Marriott won't be new. A hotel operated by Alticor inside Plaza Towers carries the Courtyard by Marriott brand.

Alticor also considered Hilton, Westin and Hyatt for the hotel at Campau Avenue and Pearl Street.

"We think Marriott is the market leader today," said Joseph Tomaselli, president of Alticor's Amway Hotel Corp. "We've had a very sound relationship with them since 1997. We've seen how much business they've been able to put into our Marriott Courtyard."

The Marriott Hotels &Resort brand is considered a more upscale, full-service designation than Courtyard by Marriott.

Room rates have not been set, but Tomaselli said the new Marriott will fill the "mid-luxury" market between the Amway Grand and the less-expensive Courtyard.

A key feature: A ballroom with 13,000 square feet to 15,000 square feet -- far bigger than largest ballroom at the Amway Grand.

The new Marriott will be built across from the Amway Grand at the current site of parking lots and Israels Designs for Living. It likely will be linked to DeVos Place via a skywalk network between the convention center and Van Andel Arena.

The hotel likely will stand more than 23 stories tall, though probably not higher than the 30-story Amway Grand tower, Tomaselli said.

"It's going to be a stunning building to complement the skyline and the Amway Grand," said Tomaselli, who has seen some early designs.

The Amway Grand, the Courtyard hotel and the nearby Days Inn together offer 1,071 rooms. Convention promoters have said that's not enough for some big groups that would consider Grand Rapids. That's why Alticor is adding another hotel at a cost of $60 million to $70 million.

While some groups have agreed to shuttle their visitors to DeVos Place from suburban hotels, others have taken their conventions elsewhere.

The project is emerging when Kent County hotels are averaging 55 percent occupancy.

"There's always concern when you're adding inventory," Wilson said.

"Yet this is certainly a facility that will benefit the convention center and not just downtown, but all of the community," he said.

Alticor's ownership of the new hotel may not mean the Amway Grand will get any overflow business. Marriott's booking system refers customers to other Marriott properties if a hotel is full. There are six in the Grand Rapids area.

Israels is expected to leave the proposed hotel site this year or early in 2005 as it relocates to the former John Widdicomb furniture factory on the city's West Side.

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