|By Tim Mekeel, Intelligencer
Journal/Lancaster New Era, Pa.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Dec. 3, 2009--Finally it's time to swing hammers instead of push papers.
The $8 million renovation of the Willow Valley Resort & Conference Center began Monday, after two years of planning.
The project will convert half of the property into a DoubleTree Resort franchise and the rest into the Willow Valley Family Inn & Restaurant.
"This is a major repositioning for us," said Sheryl Holzbauer of Willow Valley Associates, which owns and operates the property.
"It will allow us to market the property to a broader audience," Holzbauer said on Wednesday.
The project is scheduled to be completed in June. The property will stay open while work is done.
Willow Valley is the county's biggest hotel with 342 rooms. It's a major employer, too, having 360 workers in its peak summer season.
It has been an independent property for all of its 43 years.
But Willow Valley realized that most travelers today want to stay in a franchised hotel, not an independent.
Travelers know what to expect at a franchised property, Holzbauer said. They like the reservation system and the ability to accumulate reward points, she said.
So the decision was made to convert half of Willow Valley into a DoubleTree, a Hilton Hotels brand that's popular with business travelers.
Renovations are starting with a group of 30 rooms in the future DoubleTree section. Ultimately, all 184 rooms there will be upgraded, with new bathrooms, bedding and lighting.
The main entrance, lobby and restaurant will be, too, said Holzbauer, an executive vice president. But the meeting space, including Palm Court, will remain as is.
The balance of the property will be refreshed and renamed the Willow Valley Inn, with 160 rooms.
Hogg Construction is the general contractor for the project.
Willow Valley, in West Lampeter Township, announced plans for the conversion in January.
Since DoubleTree requires its restaurants to serve alcohol, and the township was dry, hotel officials asked township voters to approve alcohol sales. They did so in May, lifting a 74-year ban.
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