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LBA Properties and Hilton Hotels Break Ground for the First of New Brand,
Home2 Suites in Fayetteville, North Carolina

By Rebecca Logan, The Fayetteville Observer, N.C.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Dec. 16, 2009--Dozens of pictures were taken Tuesday of gold shovels being thrust into mud beside Sycamore Dairy Road.

The pressure was on to get a good shot.

After all, one of the pictures will soon hang in the Virginia headquarters of Hilton Hotel Corp. -- along with memories of other brand firsts for the lodging giant.

Tuesday was the first groundbreaking for Hilton's new brand of extended-stay hotels, called Home2 Suites. The 119-room Fayetteville Home2 Suites likely will be the first to open, around late 2010. Hilton hopes to open another 800 to 1,000 locations within 10 years.

Christopher Nassetta, president and CEO of Hilton, flew to Fayetteville to attend the groundbreaking next door to Hilton Garden Inn.

Nassetta said Home2 Suites will offer a slightly lower price point than guests find at Hilton's other extended-stay brand, Homewood Suites.

"Even though the world's getting better and the economy is improving, we still think the customer is being value-conscious," he said. "And this, we think, is a great value proposition."

The Fayetteville Home2 Suites is being developed by Alabama-based LBA Properties, which develops and manages hotels on behalf of Apple Real Estate Investment Trust Cos.

It was back in January that Hilton first announced its intentions to launch the concept to target "the savvy, value-wise, extended-stay guest."

That happened during a lodging investment conference in California. Then, Hilton announced 10 submitted franchise applications for Home2 Suites, including ones for Charlotte and Jacksonville. Those two North Carolina properties are still in the pipeline, but Fayetteville ended up getting ahead in the application and development process, said Bill Duncan, head of brand management for Homewood Suites and Home2 Suites.

Not to mention, he said, this market was a good fit for a first hotel.

"Fayetteville has so many of the right things that you'd want to have in place," said Duncan, who cited economic diversity and strong demand generators such as the military and the medical facilities.

"And it's a great, positive community," Duncan said. "That's important. When you're in this extended-stay business, (customers) stay a long period of time. They become a temporary part of a community. And you have a very welcoming one."

Local faces joining out-of-town hotel and investment executives in the shovel lineup Tuesday included Mayor Tony Chavonne and Sharlene Williams, one of the owners of C&S Commercial Properties. The Fayetteville developer sold the 2 acres to the hotel developers. Williams said the hotel should be a good fit for Fayetteville.

Other Hilton-brand hotels already in Fayetteville are Doubletree, Hampton Inn & Suites and Hilton Garden Inn. An Embassy Suites is planned for Lake Valley Extension, near Toys R Us.

The new Home2 Suites is within sight of another hotel that's called Extended Stay, one of a number of longer-term lodging offerings to have popped up in recent years in Fayetteville.

Among the newer properties is TownePlace Suites, Marriott's moderate-tier offering for extended-stay guests, which opened late last year near Sam's Club off Skibo Road.

Hilton is trying to differentiate Home2 Suites from its competitors in part with the brand's design. Home2 Suites will have a communal "oasis" space with a community table, individual work zones, a pantry, integrated guest laundry and an activity room. The hotel will offer complimentary continental breakfast and will count among its offerings an exercise course, fitness facility, indoor pool and outdoor grills.

Guest rooms will feature millwork pieces that serve as workspace, closet and storage.

The rooms will be designed with colorful furniture and sleek decor. Nassetta, the Hilton CEO, described it as "hip and humble."

"It's not only functional but kind of on the contemporary side of design, which we think, in today's world, is what the customers are looking for," Nassetta said.

Staff writer Rebecca Logan can be reached at loganr@fayobserver.com or 486-3582.

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To see more of The Fayetteville Observer, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.fayettevillenc.com/.

Copyright (c) 2009, The Fayetteville Observer, N.C.

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