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Embassy Suites Determines Traditional 7 story Atrium Proves to be a Cost Burden for Developers;
Opts for New Three and One-half story Atrium with Smaller Building Footprint

By Steve Lackmeyer, The Oklahoman, Oklahoma CityMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Oct. 11, 2008 - The Embassy Suites set to open soon in Norman may be one of the last of its kind as the chain begins to pursue a new design that eliminates a top to bottom atrium in favor of a similar but smaller space at the front lobby.

Jim Holthouser Sr., vice president of brand management for Embassy Suites, points to a new hotel planned for the Oklahoma Health Center in Oklahoma City as an example of what's ahead for the chain.

"It's really the most differentiated concept in the lodging business today," Holthouser said. "In addition to our suites and atriums, we're known for our complementary breakfasts and evening managers. When you walk in the door, you're met with a sense of space, light, running water and greenery. It tells a customer they are in a very different hotel."

Holthouser said the chain, which started in 1984, was proud of its reputation, which included the No.1 ranking for upscale hotels the past seven of nine years.

Design was a burden

But the costs for the old design stunted the chain's growth, Holthouse said, with only five to seven new hotels added each year.

Holthouser said the new design's biggest change is the atrium, which is being reduced to three and one-half stories high from the traditional seven, and an overall smaller building footprint. By doing so, he said, developers' costs were reduced by $15,000 per room.

The market has responded, and last year the new design resulted in 30 new Embassy Suites hotels.

"This year, even though the market is tight, we're going to still come close to adding another 30," Holthouser said.

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Copyright (c) 2008, The Oklahoman, Oklahoma City

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