|By Kevin Collison, The Kansas City Star,
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Jun. 6, 2006 - The Kansas City Marriott Downtown is spending $8.5 million to remodel its almost 1,000 rooms, an overhaul sparked in part by all the new investment occurring around it.
The Marriott complex ---- which consists of a tower completed in 1985 at 12th and Wyandotte streets linked to the historic former Muehlebach Hotel across Wyandotte ---- has not had its guest rooms upgraded in 10 years. The bathrooms in the 22-story tower have not been remodeled since it opened.
"We want it to be positioned as the premier downtown hotel and want the product to reflect everything going on downtown," said Kevin Pistilli, partner and president of the Raphael Hotel Group, which manages the property.
The Marriott is the major downtown convention hotel serving Bartle Hall. It also is near the Power & Light District being built by the Cordish Co. of Baltimore and the new headquarters of H&R Block Inc., and is only a few blocks from the Sprint Center going up at 13th Street and Grand Boulevard.
The Marriott also got competition recently from two new boutique hotels, the Hotel Phillips at 106 W.12th St. and the restored Hilton President Kansas City at 14th Street and Baltimore Avenue. Cordish also is trying to attract a luxury hotel as part of a condominium tower planned for 13th and Main streets.
Pistilli said work began recently on renovating the 550 rooms in the Marriott Tower and is expected to be completed when the Sprint Center opens in fall 2007. Work then will begin on refurbishing the rooms in the Muehlebach Tower. The entire job is expected to be finished by late 2008.
The company is considering improvements to the lobbies and public spaces of the hotel, but no decision has been made.
The Muehlebach has a large amount of empty space on its Baltimore Avenue side and its future use is undecided.
The guest-room renovation includes new carpets, curtains and artwork. The bathrooms will have granite countertops with new floors and lighting.
Pistilli hopes the major investments being made downtown will improve the city's prospects for convention business and regional tourism.
"In the past 10 years, we have not been able to provide a competitive product for conventions," he said. "We're in competition with Chicago and Denver, as well as Oklahoma City and Omaha.
"The other segment is the leisure traveler, and downtown has not been an attractive destination for them and their families. With all the amenities -- the Performing Arts Center, Music Hall, etc. -- we'll be the prime destination for people coming to Kansas City."
The current Marriott configuration was developed in the mid-1990s by Kansas City Downtown Hotel Group LLC, a partnership of interests tied to Kansas City Power & Light Co., DST Systems Inc., Great Southern Life Insurance Co. and developer Larry Bridges.
The project received a variety of development incentives from the city, including the issuance of bonds. Since 1995, the city has made appropriations totaling about $5.4 million to cover revenue shortfalls and support those bonds.
Rick Hughes, president of the Kansas City Convention & Visitors Association, said the Marriott remodeling project should help attract more conventions.
"As you look at hotels, especially what planners and delegates look for, quality and accessible hotels are at the top of the list," he said.
"Every city that competes with us has new hotels coming in ... Denver, St. Louis, Indianapolis, they're all pushing the envelope on new hotel experiences and its critical we keep pace."
Tom Holden, director of the Kansas City Hotel and Lodging Association, said the Downtown Marriott is the latest in a series of major hotel remodeling projects that include the Hyatt and Westin at Crown Center, the Doubletree and Marriott in Overland Park, and the Marriot and Hilton near Kansas City International Airport.
"It's critically important for this city and for the ability of our organization to attract tourism business," he said. "Meeting planners have lots of choices, and its wonderful to have our hotels go through these renovations."
To reach Kevin Collison, call (816) 234-4289 or send e-mail to email@example.com.
Copyright (c) 2006, The Kansas City Star, Mo.
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