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New $56 million Marriott Hotel and Conference Center
Previewed by Normal City, Illinois Council Members

By Mary Ann Ford, The Pantagraph, Bloomington, Ill.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Jul. 21, 2009--NORMAL -- Stacked stone columns, a winding staircase and a water feature will greet patrons in the four-story atrium lobby of the uptown Marriott Hotel and Conference Center.

"One of the things Marriott does is a great room concept," hotel General Manager Jeff Pritts told Normal City Council members during a tour Monday evening. "This will be a very active lobby ... it will be a hub of activity."

The $56 million, 230-room hotel on land bordered by Beaufort Street on the south, Fell Avenue on the west, North Street on the north and Broadway on the east, is expected to open in late September, Pritts said.

Heather VanVoorhis, director of sales and marketing for the hotel, said more than 50 groups already are booked for the hotel and accompanying town-owned conference center. Each group will stay an average of two to three days, she said.

Pritts said the hotel also has a six-page list of people wanting to reserve rooms for Illinois State University's homecoming weekend.

Core Construction has about 150 people working each day to finish the project. Additional people are bringing in furniture and finishing guest rooms.

Guest rooms feature dark woods and have flat screen televisions, moveable desks and bathrooms with granite countertops.

Pritts said there is more than 40 tons of granite throughout the hotel.

"It's really coming together in an obvious quality-type way," said Mayor Chris Koos.

"It's like being in another city," said Councilwoman Cheryl Gaines. "It's just amazing."

Guests will have access to a first-floor business center, Caffeina's Marketplace, which will feature Starbucks coffee, and Jesse's, a grill named after Normal and ISU founder Jesse Fell.

VanVoorhis said there will be a breakfast buffet with eggs cooked to order. There also is a private dining room that can accommodate 20 to 25 people.

The ninth floor of the hotel has the Twin Cities' only concierge lounge, which will be accessible only by patrons of the 24 rooms on the top floor, Pritts said. The lounge will serve breakfast and dinner.

"It will be top-of-the-line food," said VanVoorhis.

There also will be two presidential suites -- one facing west toward the ISU campus and named after ISU President Al Bowman and the other facing east and named after Illinois Wesleyan University President Dick Wilson.

Each suite has a kitchenette, living room/dining room area, master bedroom and bathroom with a spa tub. The suites will cost between $200 and $400 a night depending on the day of the week and the time of the year, VanVoorhis said.

Other rooms in the hotel will run between $169 and $209 for the top floor and $149 and $189 for rooms on the second through eighth floors. Top-floor rooms also will be available to the Marriott Reward Points platinum status guests, she said.

Besides the hotel, work also is finishing on the 20,000-square-foot conference center that faces North Street. The center has seven sections, each with audio/visual equipment, VanVoorhis said.

The conference center also has a doorway leading directly into the Normal Theater.


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