|By Ryan Schuster, The Bakersfield
CalifornianMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Jun. 13, 2007 - The Holiday Inn Select in downtown Bakersfield may soon become a Marriott, something city officials say would upgrade the hotel's profile and bring more visitors downtown.
The general manager of the hotel at Truxtun Avenue and Q Street would not confirm the push to switch to Marriott, though he did disclose plans to change the hotel's brand this summer, about the time the hotel's owners expect to finish a $6 million renovation project.
But the city's economic development director, Donna Kunz, did confirm that hotel management is in the process of attempting a switch to Marriott.
"It's just bringing it up a level," Kunz said of the potential change in franchise. "Having a Marriott would be a great addition to attracting more people downtown. It certainly has greater exposure than a Holiday Inn Select."
Kunz said a representative from Brighton Management, which owns the local Holiday Inn Select franchise, shared plans with city staff in November to upgrade the hotel and apply to become a Marriott by this summer. A switch in branding would need to be approved by parent company Marriott International Inc.
Representatives of Marriott International could not be reached Tuesday.
City manager Alan Tandy said Tuesday that he was aware of plans to make the hotel a Marriott.
Hotel general manager Michael Schaefer said he is contractually bound from discussing publicly any attempt to switch the hotel to the Marriott name.
But he did say the Holiday Inn Select brand will be eliminated by parent company InterContinental Hotels Group in January 2008, forcing Holiday Inn Selects to be rebranded as other IHG formats such as Holiday Inn or Holiday Inn Express, or switch to another hotel franchise.
Schaefer said he expects the local hotel to announce its new brand by August, roughly a month before the renovation project is expected to be completed.
"We're exploring our options," Schaefer said. "We're going to do the very best thing for the community. We've very excited to bring this change to the Bakersfield market. It is a project people will be very pleased with."
The renovation project that began in November 2006, has so far fixed up about 230 of the hotel's 258 rooms, Schaefer said. When complete, all rooms will be updated with new bathrooms, furniture, color schemes, bedspreads, drapes and updated desks. The ground floor also will be completely gutted in preparation for new flooring, colors, a more upscale restaurant and bar area and a Starbucks coffee kiosk area, Schaefer said.
"The biggest reason is the hotel itself is over 12 years old," Schaefer said of the renovation project. "It was time for a change. It required a complete redesign to meet changing travelers' needs and new designs."
Attempts to reach Joseph Fan, president of Diamond Bar-based real estate development and management company Brighton Management, were unsuccessful Tuesday.
But Schaefer said Brighton Management would retain ownership of the hotel.
"The property is not for sale," Schaefer said.
The Holiday Inn Select has been more than 70 percent occupied in 2007 and business has been "great," Schaefer said.
The hotel has already raised its rates about 10 percent to help offset renovation costs and reflect the hotel's new amenities, Schaefer said. He said he did not expect further price increases.
Schaefer said the renovation will bring the hotel "in line with any four-star hotel in California."
Cathy Butler, president of the Downtown Business & Property Owners Association, said it would be a status symbol for downtown to have a Marriott.
"The image of a Marriott is better," Butler said. "It would be great for attracting conventions to Bakersfield."
Kunz said it would be easier to attract restaurants to downtown if "it's next to a Marriott."
Brighton Management bought the Holiday Inn Select from John Q. Hammons Hotels Inc. in 2004. Hammons had partnered with the city and received millions in federal grant money to help turn an ugly unfinished steel structure into the Holiday Inn Select in the early 1990s after the hotel's original developers ran out of financing for the project in the late 1980s.
But the hotel's future may be a lot brighter than its humble beginnings.
"There are some really exciting things in the works for downtown Bakersfield," said Joanne Hudson, spokeswoman with the Bakersfield Convention & Visitors Bureau, declining to comment on the possibility the hotel may become a Marriott. "Any steps that a local property takes in increasing its value to a visitor increases our ability to be able to market Bakersfield and bring more visitors to our city."
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