|By Tom Daykin, Milwaukee Journal
SentinelMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Aug. 9, 2007 - The Hyatt Regency Milwaukee, downtown's second-largest hotel, is being sold to an Atlanta-based company that plans to do extensive renovations.
Noble Investment Group's plans for the Hyatt, 333 W. Kilbourn Ave., include a refurbishing of its 484 guest rooms, as well as improvements to the restaurants, lounge and other areas, said Clay Spencer, the Hyatt's general manager.
The project's costs are estimated in the range of $15 million to $20 million, he said Wednesday.
"It's going to be exciting," Spencer said.
Noble is to take control of the hotel on Aug. 19, Spencer said. He said the hotel, which has 275 employees, will keep the Hyatt brand.
A spokeswoman for Noble declined to comment because the sale of the property hasn't been completed yet.
Noble's management division operates hotels and resorts in several states that total more than 7,000 rooms. Noble describes itself as a "value-added" investor, which sometimes involves buying hotels that need remodeling, doing the work, and then changing the brand.
The Hyatt, owned by developer Gary Grunau and his partners, opened in 1980. The 18-story hotel, topped by the rotating Polaris restaurant and lounge, thrived for several years by being near the MECCA Convention Hall's main entrance. MECCA opened in 1974, and was connected by a skywalk to the Hyatt.
But, by the late 1980s, MECCA was losing business to new, larger meeting facilities in other cities. Grunau's 1991 proposal to raze the U.S. Cellular Arena, and expand MECCA across Kilbourn Ave. to the arena site, was eventually rejected in favor of a plan to demolish MECCA and replace it with a new facility that expanded over Wells St.
The new convention hall, the Midwest Airlines Center, opened in 1998, with the main entrance on Wisconsin Ave., two blocks south of the Hyatt.
As a result, the Hilton Milwaukee City Center, 509 W. Wisconsin Ave., became more visible to convention attendees.
The Hilton was connected to the center by a skywalk, and it expanded to 730 rooms -- making it downtown's largest hotel.
The Hyatt has a skywalk connection to the Midwest Airlines Center, but it's at the center's back end. Grunau dropped plans to add 250 rooms after the convention center moved closer to the Hilton.
Grunau and his partners put the Hyatt on the sale block earlier this year. Despite a so-so convention business, downtown hotels in the past few years have seen an increase in occupancy rates, fueled by higher levels of both business and leisure travel, said Greg Hanis, who operates Hospitality Marketers International Inc., a Pewaukee consulting firm.
Downtown hotels that have undergone major remodelings over the past year include the 220-room InterContinental Milwaukee Hotel, formerly the Wyndham Milwaukee Center, at 139 E. Kilbourn Ave.; the 247-room Doubletree Hotel Milwaukee City Center, formerly the Holiday Inn Milwaukee City Centre, 611 W. Wisconsin Ave.; and the 138-room Hampton Inn & Suites, formerly the Howard Johnson Inn & Suites, 176 W. Wisconsin Ave.
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