|By Paul Gordon, Journal Star, Peoria,
Ill.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Jun. 19, 2007 - PEORIA -- The largest hotel in Downtown Peoria has embarked on a multi-million dollar, two-phase renovation project hotel officials say will be completed by early next year.
The Holiday Inn City Centre, which will be called City Centre Hotel for the next few months because of the renovations, will get a facelift in public and guest room areas --including new carpets and bedding -- said general manager Sami Qureshi.
The hotel, he said, must give up the Holiday Inn flag and national reservation system during the first phase of the renovation -- about 90 days -- because owner Kinseth Hospitality Companies opted to take more rooms out of circulation at a time than Holiday Inn prefers in order to complete the renovations more quickly.
"When we are finished we will be a like-new hotel Holiday Inn will be proud to have in its system," Qureshi said Friday.
Qureshi said he is as yet unable to say how much the renovations will cost.
Already Kinseth has started replacing the plumbing in the hotel, including in all the guest rooms, a project he said will cost up to $150,000 alone.
"We had hot water circulation problems in the rooms, which probably shouldn't be surprising given the plumbing was more than 30 years old," he said, adding that part of the project was about one-third complete in the nine-story, 319-room hotel.
Other parts of Phase One, which Qureshi said will be complete within 90 days, including all new beds and bedding in the guest rooms; new carpets in all guest rooms and public areas; remodeled public restrooms, new heating and air conditioning for the banquet and meeting spaces; upgraded guest elevators and guest entrances.
Phase 2, which will begin in the fall, will include remodeling guest room bathrooms, more new carpet and new furniture in rooms, common areas and banquet facilities. It also will include exterior upgrades.
Qureshi said the City Centre will remain open during the renovations.
Qureshi reiterated comments he made nine months ago that the renovations are not related to a study that said upgrades were necessary if the expanded Peoria Civic Center was going to be able to attract larger conventions. He said Kinseth already was planning renovations.
"We've known for some time we needed renovations. It is true the Civic Center expansion played a part in that because it is important we keep pace and support the Civic Center, because it in turn supports us. That was an internal decision not based on the study but on the already apparent need to be able to attract more and larger conventions to Peoria," he said.
"We want to do our part as the largest convention hotel in Peoria," he added.
That study, by HVS Convention, Sports & Entertainment Facilities Consulting of Chicago, said without major renovations to the City Centre, the city should strongly consider a new hotel connected to and next to the Civic Center.
Qureshi said the City Centre still is for sale for $13 million, but said it is more that Kinseth Hospitality is looking for a new partner to replace one who retired a few years ago.
Reactions to the City Centre's plans were good, as expected.
Rebekah Bourland, chairman of the Civic Center Authority and a proponent of a new hotel, said the renovations don't change the need for more quality rooms in Downtown Peoria.
Still, she said, "We are thrilled Kinseth decided to make that investment. It was necessary if that property was going to remain viable and it tells us Kinseth is making a commitment to the community." Brent Lonteen, president of the Peoria area Convention and Visitors Bureau, called the plans "very positive." He said one thing the CVB looks to local hoteliers for "is to allow us to offer conventions nice properties so we can be more competitive. This will help that. We're big fans of properties that reinvest in themselves." One such property that did that recently is the Hotel Pere Marquette. Its vice president, Don Welch, also praised the City Centre plans.
An opponent of a new Civic Center hotel, Welch said the improvements planned at the City Centre "would appear to support the efforts of the Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Civic Center and the hospitality industry to attract larger conventions to Peoria. This will help the Downtown travel businessman market and the leisure traveling market."
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