|By Julie Dunn, The Denver Post
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Mar. 30, 2006 - The historic Treat Hall on Johnson & Wales University's northeast Denver campus will open tonight for the first time in almost 25 years, offering select visitors a glimpse of the landmark's future as a student-run boutique hotel.
Treat Hall was built in 1890 as the first building for the Colorado Women's College, housing classrooms, dorms and administrative offices. Johnson & Wales plans to spend $16.2 million converting it into a 52-room hotel. Students from Johnson & Wales' culinary, hospitality and business schools will receive credits for running it, a model employed by several other schools, including Cornell University.
"This is going to be the ultimate experiential learning center," said Michael Pasquarella, dean of university relations. "Our students are going to be responsible for the financials, the daily operations, for everything." The private university still needs to raise $10 million for the renovation. As part of the effort, it is offering donors the chance to put their names on everything from guest rooms to the building's grand staircase. Gift levels range from $25,000 to $1 million.
"I don't know if this has been done before, but I think it will be successful," said Walter Isenberg, president of Denver-based Sage Hospitality Resources. Isenberg is chairman of the fundraising campaign, and his company will oversee the hotel's management.
Johnson & Wales will share construction plans with current and potential donors tonight at a private reception in Treat Hall, near Montview Boulevard and Quebec Street.
"I think there will be significant interest," said Denver hotel consultant John Montgomery. The hotel will be open to the public year-round and could start hosting guests as early as September 2007. New York-based Myriad Restaurant Group will manage a 100-seat restaurant and bar in the hotel. The building will also feature a 2,400-foot wine cellar and 4,000 square feet of meeting space.
The university spent $500,000 to remove asbestos and pigeon droppings from the building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It has been vacant since 1982, when the University of Denver acquired the campus at 7150 Montview Blvd.
Once the hotel is operational, Sage Hospitality and Myriad have committed to returning 100 percent of its profits to the university's scholarship fund. More than 85 percent of Johnson & Wales' students receive some type of financial aid to help with annual tuition and expenses of nearly $30,000.
The hotel will become the centerpiece of a 26-acre campus that has seen more than $80 million in upgrades since Johnson & Wales bought it in 1999, according to president Bette Matkowski.
Johnson & Wales was founded as a career-oriented business school in 1914 in Providence, R.I. More than 15,000 students are enrolled on six campuses, including sites in Miami and Charlotte, N.C.
"Employers know they can come here and recruit employment-ready graduates," said Matkowski. In Denver, Johnson & Wales' student body has grown from 325 in 2000 to more than 1,525 last fall.
The University of Denver plans to offer its students a similar hands-on opportunity. It recently completed construction of an $18 million School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management building, which will be used as a student-run conference center.
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