|By Robert Evatt, Tulsa World, Okla.|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Apr. 14, 2005 - La Quinta Inns Inc. likes the new look at 6030 E. Skelly Drive.
The building wasn't exactly A-list property.
In fact, the crumbling hotel at 6030 E. Skelly Drive almost seemed like a hopeless cause to Butch Cash, chairman and chief executive of La Quinta Inns Inc.
"When I first saw the pictures of the place, I said, 'You've got to be kidding me,'" Cash said Wednesday during the grand opening of what is now La Quinta Inn Tulsa Central.
Despite the run-down conditions, local hotel owner and developer Andy Patel pressed and managed to renovate the old hotel into a facility that has impressed the entire lodging chain.
"La Quinta uses us as an example in their national renovation program to show what can be done," Patel said.
Patel, who owns three hotels in the Tulsa area with a fourth, a Hilton Homewood Suites, under construction, said the transformation took a lot of work and perseverance.
He first took an interest in the site about four years ago. The building had been constructed as a Drury Inn in 1979 and changed associations several times before closing by 2001.
"We wanted a hotel on this expressway exit, and land was hard to find," Patel said.
The building, to put it mildly, wasn't too appealing, he said.
"The exterior was old brick, which was flat and rectangular," Patel said. "There was no look or color, and the metal was rusted.
"The inside had outdated carpeting. It was dark and it smelled."
To make matters worse, Tulsa's hospitality market was starting to sink along with the rest of the economy in 2001.
Still, Patel hoped he could bring the hotel back to life and soon convinced the Dallas-based La Quinta chain to support him.
"Andy was the one with the foresight to know it could be conformed to La Quinta standards," Cash said.
The hotel's sturdy brick and concrete structure became both an advantage and a disadvantage, Patel said.
"The building itself was solid and strong," he said. "It's just not easy to work around."
For example, the lobby ceilings could not be raised to the spacious heights that La Quinta generally prefers, Cash said. To compensate, the ceiling and surrounding walls were painted white and brightly illuminated to create a feeling of spaciousness.
The brick walls, both inside and out, were recovered with light stucco. Everything in the hotel was gutted and replaced, from the plumbing and electrical work to the doors, furniture, lights and toilets.
"Besides me, there's nothing old in here anymore," Patel said.
The transformation, which began in 2002, took time. Though portions of the hotel were opened by the end of 2003, the room-by-room renovations were not finished until recently.
Now, every inch of the four-story, 105-room hotel is open for business. Patel said the facility is at the upper end of La Quinta's basic hotels, with 21 rooms being two-room suites, and one has a built-in whirlpool hot tub.
Tulsa's lodging market were hit hard in 2002 and 2003, Patel said, but it's well on its way to recovery.
"The passage of Vision 2025 is helping us a lot, and it's already having an effect everywhere," he said.
As for La Quinta Tulsa Central in particular, Cash said the chain is proud of the result.
"This is a great example of what can be done when you have the vision Andy has," he said.
To see more of the Tulsa World, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.tulsaworld.com.
Copyright (c) 2005, Tulsa World, Okla.
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