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The 79 Room Siena Hotel in Chapel Hill, North Carolina Sold
to Annika Hotels; $3 million in Upgrades Planned

By Gregory Childress, The Herald-Sun, Durham, N.C.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Jul. 16, 2009--CHAPEL HILL -- The Siena Hotel on Franklin Street has been sold to Annika Hotels, an arm of Morrisville-based Focus Properties, which owns and manages the Prime Outlet Mall on Airport Boulevard, just off Interstate 40 near RDU Airport.

The sale of the 79-room hotel was announced Wednesday by Plaza Associates, Inc., a Raleigh-based retail management firm owned by The Siena's longtime owners Sam, Susan and Vittoria Longiotti.

"It [the sale of the hotel] was always a part of their retirement strategy," said Carole Marcusse-Sell, the corporate marketing director for Plaza Associates. "It just happened to work out now as opposed to five to 10 years from now."

Plaza Associates is probably best known for its ownership and management of Crabtree Valley Mall in Raleigh.

The Longiottis built the luxury hotel more than 20 years ago after being inspired by a trip to Italy in the early 1980s. It has the only AAA Four Diamond-rated Italian restaurant in North Carolina, Il Palio Ristorante.

"The Siena Hotel has been an exciting and rewarding experience," the Longiotti family said in a statement. "We thank everyone who has supported the hotel and restaurant through the years and hope that they will continue to enjoy this little part of Italy we brought back with us so many years ago."

The sale of The Siena follows that of Franklin Street's only other hotel, The Franklin Hotel, which was sold last week by UNC alumnus Robert Capps to Chapel Hill-based Wintergreen Hospitality, a firm owned and managed by two UNC alums and their father, for approximately $14 million.

Like The Franklin, the 79-room Siena is also now owned by an alumnus of UNC and his family. Prateek Chandak is a 2000 UNC graduate. He has a sister who is a 2003 graduate of the university.

"We've got strong ties to Chapel Hill," Prateek Chandak said Wednesday. "When the opportunity presented itself to buy The Siena, we worked hard and diligently to make it a reality."

Their father, Govind Chandak, is partially retired but remains involved in the management of Focus Properties.

Prateek Chandak said he knew Jay Patel, the UNC alumnus whose family bought The Franklin Hotel, when they were undergrads at UNC. He said he spoke with Patel this week about the purchase.

Laurie Paolicelli, director of the Chapel Hill-Orange County Visitors Bureau, said the new owners of the hotel want to take them to the next level.

"I think what that means to us is that it'll raise the level of competition and raise the level of excellence, and that's a good thing," Paolicelli said.

For tax purposes, The Siena is valued at about $8 million. Prateek Chandak acknowledged that the selling price was somewhere in that neighborhood.

While the service at The Siena has been and remains first-rate, Prateek Chandak said the building needs work to return The Siena to "where it was 10 years ago" when it was the premiere hotel in the area.

"We expect to spend around $3 million over the next two years," Prateek Chandak said. "There will be some immediate things to happen over the next two months."

While Focus Properties has owned hotels in the past, The Siena is currently the only one in the company's portfolio.

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To see more of The Herald-Sun, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.herald-sun.com.

Copyright (c) 2009, The Herald-Sun, Durham, N.C.

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