|By Courtenay Edelhart, The Bakersfield
CalifornianMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
May 14, 2008 - The long-awaited conversion of downtown Bakersfield's Holiday Inn Select to a full-service Marriott is on the fast track now that the hotel is under new ownership.
Barney Hospitality Group, LLC bought the 259-room hotel from Diamond Bar-based real estate development and management company Brighton Management for $26 million in March, and says remodeling and rebranding should be complete by the end of October.
Brighton Management began renovations in November 2006, but the effort to rebrand the property lingered well beyond last summer, when hotel management had said the Holiday Inn Select brand would be replaced. Holiday Inn parent company InterContinental Hotels Group is eliminating all its Holiday Inn Selects this year, so the one in Bakersfield had to either switch to another franchise or adopt another IHG format such as Holiday Inn or Holiday Inn Express.
Having a Marriott adjacent to the Rabobank Arena, Theater and Convention Center will boost efforts to attract conferences, said Don Cohen, manager of the Bakersfield Convention and Visitors Bureau.
"It's a marquee name," he said. "A lot of corporations and trade shows look for a marquee name when they're booking events."
Richard Chapman, president of the Kern Economic Development Corp., called the arrival of Marriott "exciting news." It's a more upscale brand, he said, which raises the city's profile.
Previous owner Brighton Management referred calls to Barney Hospitality. Marriott International Inc. did not return calls.
The renovation includes updating rooms, the lobby, the restaurant and 15,000 square feet of meeting space at the hotel at 801 Truxtun Ave. The work pace has been noticeably faster the last couple of months. Half the lobby has been closed off and demolished, and all the rooms are in some stage of upgrade. Plans call for exterior improvements including new paint and architectural details to make the rear entrance from the parking lot a more dramatic statement, said BHG president and chief executive officer Philip Barney.
"Visitors who come see it this fall won't say, 'They've done a nice job with that old Holiday Inn Select.' They're going to say, 'Wow, what a magnificent new Marriott.' You won't find any remnants of the old hotel," Barney said.
He stressed he has nothing against Holiday Inn. His real estate investment company is involved in managing several in Southern California. But this particular version of Marriott, a new design for the company, is a step up, Barney said.
"Our whole staff is being retrained, and we've imported a chef from Los Angeles to bring up the level of the food," he said.
The hotel has 100 employees, and plans to add 25.
The so-called "Lobby Reinvented" design will divide the lobby into work and leisure zones. The leisure area includes a double-sided fireplace and a $30,000, 75-inch television. The work includes built-in computers. The restaurant will have private dining rooms.
Technology is a big selling point of the new guest rooms, which will include presidential suites, Barney said. There's a bay at each desk with places to plug in laptops and other electronics, and desks swivel to an angle to see a 37-inch flat screen TV, which can be used as a computer monitor. Guests can also split the screen between TV and Internet content, or play music from their own device on the hotel room's speakers.
For those who prefer old-fashioned books, adjustable mini reading lights are built into the headboard of the bed.
The hotel will remain open during construction, said general manager Eric Roiko, part of the new management team.
"The construction areas are all sound-proofed and sectioned off so you can't see them," Roiko said.
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