|By Dennis Darrow, The Pueblo Chieftain,
Colo.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Jan. 15, 2013--The Pueblo Marriott will become a Courtyard by Marriott under a new ownership group.
The new owners plan to operate a bistro-style restaurant as part of a remodel of the Downtown hotel's existing restaurant and spacious lobby areas.
The ownership and brand changes have received the approval of the Pueblo Urban Renewal Authority. The agency owns the hotel site and retains some say in the kind of hotel operated at the site. The new owners are set to close on the property today.
"They came to us in November and wanted us to approve rebranding the hotel to a Courtyard by Marriott," Urban Renewal Authority Director John Batey said.
The agency's board of directors also received a briefing on the planned renovations, designed to make the hotel more appealing
to conference-goers and travelers, he said.
"It's going to be a nice project," Batey said.
The changes also fit with the city's plans to recruit a second hotel to anchor a planned expansion of the convention center in an area closer to the Historic Arkansas Riverwalk of Pueblo, he said.
The sale follows a 2011 foreclosure that clouded the future of previous owner Trinity Hotel Properties and its holdings, including the Marriott and more than a dozen other U.S. hotels.
Trinity purchased the Pueblo Marriott in 2006.
In the case of the Pueblo hotel, a real estate investment company that includes California investor Robert Alter agreed to acquire the hotel.
In the late 1990s, Alter was the founder of Sunstone Hotel Investors, the group that worked with the city to build the Marriott as part of the convention center project.
"We believe that this hotel is an excellent hotel. We know that it was built with the highest quality and at an excellent location," Alter said Monday.
The move away from Marriott's flagship full-service brand to its upscale family and traveloriented Courtyard brand will allow the hotel to better compete on marketing and lower pricing, Alter said.
His group initially proposed a similar brand back in the 1990s, he said.
"There's lots of competition in Pueblo. So, even though we're attached to the convention center, we still have to be pretty price conscious," he said.
The property will retain its high quality, he said. The lobby renovations are set to take place this spring, to be followed by room renovations after the 2013 Colorado State Fair, he said.
"It will be made to be a very upscale Courtyard by Marriott," he said.
Urban Renewal's site ownership dates back to its 1996 efforts to get the hotel and convention center project off the ground.
The agency reportedly co-signed on the hotel project in part as a way to assure the original developers that they would not be liable if any environmental issues were to arise at the building site.
Also, the agency sought to ensure that a four-star or other toptier hotel always operated at the site, partly to guarantee that the hotel featured a full-service restaurant.
Batey said that, in reviewing the agency's 1990s discussions, the previous board's key concern appeared to find a way to ensure the presence of a restaurant.
The new owners' pledge to operate a restaurant, coupled with the renovation plans, met the current board's approval, he said.
"The Marriott level was nice but it's not as heavily used by convention goers," Batey said.
A Marriott spokesman said the company might comment in coming days.
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