|By Tom Droege, Tulsa World, Okla.|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Apr. 21, 2004 - The Doubletree Hotel at Warren Place is moving away from the traditional three-restaurant, one-ballroom formula common in high-end hotels built around the country during the 1980s.
The new owners of the nine-floor, 370-room facility are sinking $4.5 million into the building this year to transform the layout so it appeals more to corporate travelers, who make up the bulk of business there.
"People won't recognize it -- it'll change dramatically," said Brett Sundstrom, the hotel's general manager. "We're going to change the whole flow of pedestrian traffic through the building."
Changes include turning the lower-level Green Leaf's restaurant into a junior ballroom, applying a casual restaurant-lobby bar concept to the Encounters bar, and upgrading the hotel's signature restaurant, the Warren Duck Club.
In addition, all the guest rooms will get face-lifts, an in-house Starbucks Cafe will open and wireless Internet will be available throughout the hotel.
Procaccianti Group, a Cranston, R.I.-based hospitality management company, bought the hotel at 6110 S. Yale Ave. in February from Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. Family-owned Procaccianti specializes in buying "undervalued" hotels and turning them around using its own management and construction teams, Sundstrom said.
"For the last 16 months the hotel has been riding on the coattails of its past success," he said, but the time has come to modernize the facility, which was built in 1985.
Procaccianti also purchased the Waterford Marriott in Oklahoma City and two hotels in Springfield, Ill., last year. The company now owns 21 hotels nationwide, many of them on the East Coast. The Oklahoma City hotel is undergoing a smaller-scale renovation, Sundstrom said.
Work on the Doubletree is expected to begin in August and be finished by the end of the year. A $1.5 million second phase -- renovation of the main ballroom -- is planned for 2005.
Procaccianti's large local investment suggests the company's confidence in the future of Tulsa's business environment, which has struggled in an ailing economy for at least two years.
"Both the Tulsa Doubletree at Warren Place and the Waterford Marriott, our other Oklahoma hotel, are considered among the finest in the state," Gregory Vickowski, chief executive of Procaccianti, said in a prepared statement. "As we continue to seek additional hotels in the Midwest, we plan to maintain this high level of property excellence."
Located in the 1 million-square-foot Warren Place office complex, the Doubletree sits atop a hill adjacent to LaFortune Park and St. Francis Hospital. The property is about a mile from Interstate 44 and 15 minutes from Tulsa International Airport.
MetLife still owns the two office buildings on either side of the hotel, one of which is occupied by Citgo Petroleum Corp. That company in considering moving its headquarters to Houston.
As for the hospitality business, Sundstrom said the light may be at the end of the tunnel after 9/11 spawned a major travel slump.
"We're still not back to pre-9/11 levels, but it's getting close," he said, noting that the first three months of 2004 have been stronger than the same period last year.
"We're seeing good numbers."
-----To see more of the Tulsa World, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.tulsaworld.com.
(c) 2004, Tulsa World, Okla. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News. HLT, SBUX, MET, MAR,