|By Pam Dawkins, Connecticut Post, Bridgeport|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
May 18, 2004 - SHELTON, Conn. -- Following a $5.2 million renovation, the Ramada Plaza Hotel in Shelton will end 2004 as a Marriott Courtyard hotel.
Shelton-based New Castle Hotels and Resorts purchased the 155-bed hotel at 780 Bridgeport Ave. from MeriStar Hospitality Corp. in February for approximately $7 million.
The company intends to turn it into an "upscale, contemporary courtyard [hotel]," said Gerald Chase, president and chief operating officer of New Castle.
"We know the market," Chase said when asked why New Castle purchased the hotel. In addition to owning the Hilton Garden Inn in Shelton, the company's headquarters have been in viewing distance of the Ramada since New Castle moved to Shelton 15 years ago.
The Shelton hotel was one of five MeriStar, of Arlington, Va., sold earlier this year. Melissa Thompson, a spokeswoman for former property manager Interstate Hotels and Resorts, said Monday MeriStar has sold off more than 20 hotels as part of its effort to get rid of "non-core" properties.
Since taking over the Ramada Plaza in February, New Castle has installed some new managers and hired about 25 people, said Vince Barrett, its hotel's new general manager. Barrett, who is also New Castle's corporate director for food and beverage, said that the only employees who have left the property are those who managed it for Interstate.
"We feel that the Shelton market is a strong market," said Barrett, who expects the hotel to target business travelers.
New Castle owns 22 hotels in Canada and the United States and operates them under several different brands, including Marriott, Hilton, Sheraton and Westin. It is currently in the permitting process to begin renovations, which Barrett expects to complete by December. The hotel, which will remain open during the renovations, will operate as a Marriott franchise as of Dec. 1, he said.
By then, said Barrett, New Castle will renovate each room and the outside of the building, upgrade the fitness center and pool, and gut the lobby, restaurant and meeting rooms.
"The entire hotel will have a totally different look to it," he said.
The final product will not be a typical Marriott Courtyard hotel, said Barrett. Instead of small meeting rooms and limited food availability, the Shelton Marriott will have rooms for big meetings and a full-service restaurant, because the facilities were already present at the Ramada.
Chase said New Castle decided to create a Marriott franchise because it already has a Hilton site in Shelton. And "It wouldn't fit [the model for] a full-service Westin [or] Sheraton," which typically have at least 300 rooms.
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