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Pearl Investments Acquires the Clarion Hotel in Downtown Fort Worth;
Will Re-Flag with the InterContinental Hotels Brand, Hotel Indigo

By Sandra Baker, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Texas
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News

Nov. 17, 2005 - FORT WORTH -- The Clarion Hotel in downtown Fort Worth has changed hands and will be transformed into Hotel Indigo, one of a small chain of colorful boutique hotels being franchised by InterContinental Hotels.

The makeover of the Clarion, a former Days Inn on Commerce Street, will take about nine months. Its new owners hope to open Hotel Indigo in about a year.

"We've found our home here," said Pritesh Patel, president of Pearl Investments, the Texas company that bought the Fort Worth property and will own and operate the Hotel Indigo franchise.

Chicago and Atlanta are the only other cities that have a Hotel Indigo, and another is planned for Houston. Room rates will average about $150 a night in Fort Worth. In Chicago, the average rate is $175 a night.

InterContinental Hotels touts Hotel Indigo as a lifestyle hotel that incorporates nature themes into its design and provides an alternative to traditional hotels that have "become too beige." Its logo is a nautilus shell, and its deep blue namesake is one of its signature colors.

Impressed with the growth of downtown Fort Worth, Patel said the company has been interested in the market for about three years. The group spent the last year negotiating the purchase of the Clarion property, he said.

Pearl Investments has moved its headquarters to Fort Worth from Lubbock. The company has been developing hotels throughout the United States for about 20 years, most recently in Lubbock, Waco and San Antonio. Last year, it converted the Barcelona Court hotel in Lubbock into a 170-room Embassy Suites by Hilton, which today ranks among its top properties.

Patel said the company was attracted to the Fort Worth hotel's location for many reasons, including its close proximity to the Bass Performance Hall, which draws international visitors, and the popular Sundance Square entertainment district.

"We saw a very underutilized asset," Patel said.

The Clarion, 600 Commerce Street, shut down when the last guests checked out Sunday.

The company has since helped eight employees find jobs with other hotels in the area and is keeping 22 others on staff to help in the remodeling and rebranding project, Patel said. Pearl Management, the management arm of Pearl Investments, will operate Hotel Indigo.

Demolition of the hotel's interior began this week and will continue through the end of the year. Renovation work will begin in January and take at least nine months, Patel said.

The number of rooms in the 192,670-square-foot building will be reduced to 240 from 300, to make room for 60 suites, Patel said.

The entire interior will be new, including the furniture, fixtures and finishes. The exterior will also get a new look, although those designs have not been finalized. New elevators will be installed, and the hotel's 13,000 square feet of meeting space will be configured into more intimate boardroom space and rooms for small gatherings, Patel said.

It will also get a spa, he said.

When the hotel is completed, Patel said he wants people to walk by the property and ask themselves: "'When did this hotel come up?' That's how we like to position ourselves."

Hotel Indigo is an example of things to come for the hotel industry in downtown Fort Worth, said Doug Harman, president of the Fort Worth Convention & Visitors Bureau.

The market is becoming increasingly lucrative and attracting quality operators because of the high number of commercial developments, including the expansion of the Fort Worth Convention Center, Harman said.

"It is exciting news," Harman said of the project. "The location is outstanding. Over the years it's been frustrating to see such a great location underutilized. We need quality rooms. The property will be brought in line with what downtown Fort Worth is today."

Pearl Investments bought the Clarion property under the name Fort Worth H Partners from Sundance Hospitality Corp., a group of Taiwanese investors that acquired the property in 1996. Sundance Hospitality operated the hotel under the Clarion flag, a concept of Maryland-based Choice Hotels International. The property has also operated as a Days Inn, Fort Worth Inn, Chisholm Hotel and Remington Hotel.

Larry Kingsbury and Eric Clayton, brokers with NAI Huff Partners in Fort Worth, brokered the deal with Pearl Investments.

InterContinental Hotels Group of the United Kingdom is the world's largest hotel group by number of rooms. InterContinental Hotels owns, manages, leases or franchises more than 3,500 hotels and 535,000 guest rooms in nearly 100 countries and territories around the world.

The hotels include InterContinental Hotels & Resorts, Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts, Holiday Inn Hotels and Resorts, Holiday Inn Express, Staybridge Suites and Candlewood Suites.

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To see more of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.dfw.com.

Copyright (c) 2005, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Texas

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