|By Michael Zennie, The Fayetteville
Observer, N.C.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Feb. 04, 2011--The lobby is open and inviting, a large space with communal seating and tables designed to foster social interaction and community.
The hallways are painted in greens and yellows -- earthy tones meant to draw in an outdoors feel.
And the rooms are furnished with energy-saving appliances, dual-flush toilets and recycled carpeting and wall coverings.
Home2 Suites is the first new hotel chain that hospitality giant Hilton has launched in 20 years. And in nearly every aspect, the company tried to deviate from the norm, said Bill Duncan, the global head of the Hilton's extended-stay brands.
"We weren't looking for a 'me, too' brand; we were trying to create something new and different," he said.
The first hotel in the chain welcomed its first guests Thursday, at its first location: 4035 Sycamore Dairy Road.
"The Fayetteville market has been very strong, occupancy-wise, for the last several years," Beau Benton, the chief operating officer at LBA Properties, which developed and operates the hotel.
Home2 Suites is extended-stay lodging aimed at business travelers working on projects that take them out of town for at least a week.
LBA chose to build first in Fayetteville because Fort Bragg draws droves of government contractors and military personnel on temporary duty, the ideal kind of customers for the mid-priced hotel, Benton said,
Rooms typically will rent for $90 to the low $100s a night.
Hilton has an additional 56 locations for Home2 Suites planned and another 30 in development. Six properties are under construction and are slated to open in 2011 or early 2012, including San Antonio, Baltimore, Lexington Park, Md., and Jacksonville, home of Camp Lejeune.
The hotel is designed to be "hip but humble," Duncan said.
The centerpiece of the concept is the lobby, designed as a communal "oasis." In research groups, travelers consistently said they wanted a public space where they could interact with co-workers or other guests, Duncan said.
The open structure has tables and power outlets for computers, but it also features a long, circular couch where strangers can sit near one another and interact.
The rooms are shotgun-style -- long and narrow as opposed to square -- and are equipped with a "working wall," which includes a 42-inch flat panel television and a pullout desk and rolling chair. The design, with everything pushed flat against the long wall, makes the room feel bigger and more open than it actually is, Duncan said.
"It's not their home, but we want to give them a sense of home," Duncan said.
Staff writer Michael Zennie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (910) 486-3583.
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Copyright (c) 2011, The Fayetteville Observer, N.C.
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