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Ascension Hotels LLC Ups Renovation Costs of the
 462 room Tulsa Crowne Plaza to $10  million

By Robert Evatt, Tulsa World, Okla.McClatchy-Tribune Business News

Dec. 20, 2006 - The new owner of the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Ascension Hotels LLC, had always planned to renovate the downtown property.

But the scope of the project has exploded since the April purchase and now includes a new restaurant, a sky bar, a business/copy store, a public-access fitness center and a Starbucks coffee shop.

Tarun Kapoor, president of Donaldson, La.-based Ascension, said the $10 million project isn't just designed to keep hotel guests happy. The company also wants to draw area residents looking for entertainment or a quick cup of joe.

The new elements were inspired by the slow but growing movement to bring people back to downtown through living, shopping and night life, he said.

"We'll be the first ones to take the jump and make a statement," he said. "We sincerely hope the rest of the hotels and restaurant community does the same."

Still, the first priority is modernizing the 462 rooms of the hotel at 100 E. Second St. Currently, four floors are gutted. Every room will get new floor and wall coverings, new furniture, new equipment, new artwork and new high-definition TVs, Kapoor said.

He estimated the last of the rooms will be finished by May.

Hotel officials decided they didn't want to mix modern-feeling hotels with a lobby steeped in the 1970s, so the entire public space also will get a new look.

"From every hallway to every lobby, it will be redone," Kapoor said.

Just like the rooms, the ballrooms, meeting rooms and lobbies will all be redone from the ground up.

Together, renovation of the rooms and public spaces will cost approximately $7 million.

Because the hotel wants to attract non-guests, the restaurant will receive more than a face-lift, Kapoor said. The hotel has just signed a letter of intent with Daily Grill, a chain of upscale American cuisine restaurants that serves both contemporary and comfort food dishes.

"The Daily Grill gives a lot of variety to hotel guests, and to the local business crowd to conduct business and meet," Kapoor said.

Crowne Plaza's current main restaurant, the Deco, will close in the spring, with the Daily Grill to be finished by early fall. The project is estimated at $2.5 million.

In the meantime, the hotel's secondary restaurant, Tiffany Rose, will serve visitors until the Daily Grill is finished. At that time, the Tiffany Rose will be expanded into an open Internet cafe-style facility serving food from the Daily Grill.

The new Starbucks location should also open next fall, since the hotel was just approved for a franchise. The Tulsa Cafe, which now serves Starbucks coffee and closes in the afternoon, will be replaced with a full-fledged Starbucks location with expanded business hours and a patio.

That portion of the plan is estimated at $500,000.

Crowne Plaza is in discussions to open an expanded fitness center with personal trainers, Kapoor said, though plans have not been finalized.

"The current thinking is to allow the public to buy memberships," he said.

Discussions already have begun with an office store similar to Mail Boxes Etc. to open a franchise in the Crowne Plaza.

Finally, the third-floor swimming pool is slated to become an outdoor pool with an attached sky bar open at night.

"We want to attract Tulsa's young, hip people," Kapoor said.

Ascension purchased Crowne Plaza for $6.75 million. The company operates six lodging facilities in Louisiana, though Kapoor said it is looking to purchase others nationwide.

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Copyright (c) 2006, Tulsa World, Okla.

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