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The Knowland Group Goulston & Storrs
Developer Turner Woodard Acquires the 99-room Canterbury Hotel in
 Downtown Indianapolis; Aims to Revive the Hotel into an
 Updated Version of its Storied Self

By Jeff Swiatek, The Indianapolis StarMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

March 2, 2010 --Indianapolis businessman Turner Woodard turned the old Stutz auto factory Downtown into a thriving mix of small offices and art studios.

Now he aims to revive the 99-room Canterbury Hotel into an updated version of its storied self.

Woodard closed on the purchase of the independent upscale hotel at 123 S. Illinois St. on Monday, ending three years of rumors about it changing ownership.

Today workers will start cleaning and tuck-pointing the facade, planting street flowers and putting out bid requests to refurbish the hotel's rooms, the new owner said.

"We worked on this long enough," Woodard said of his purchase, which took him three years. "Now the talking stops and work begins."

Woodard, 61, is most known for converting the Stutz complex at 10th Street and Capitol Avenue into a business center that's heavy on art studios. Through his main company, Turner James Investments, he also owns the 300-acre Wasatch Lake rustic resort in Owen County and North College Woods condominiums in Broad Ripple.

How does it feel to be a hotel owner?

"It feels pretty special, pretty darn special," Woodard said from the hotel's formal lobby, moments after signing papers to buy the place. "And now I'm also a restaurant and bar owner," he said.

The Canterbury houses the restaurant Danielli.

Woodard wouldn't reveal the price he paid. He said the hotel was "possibly" in danger of closing and he worked with the previous owner's lender to arrange new financing on the hotel, which is linked to Circle Centre mall and is smack in the middle of Downtown's restaurant district.

The sellers were family heirs of Chicago area businessman Donald Fortunato, who died last summer. Fortunato redeveloped the Canterbury in the early 1980s with the late Indianapolis real estate developer Fred C. "Bud" Tucker Jr.

The Canterbury was built in 1928. Woodard said he was attracted to the hotel because he likes historic places. "I am always searching for unique, special investments, and this qualified," he said.

After a remodeling of room furnishings is done, Woodard said, a thorough updating of all bathrooms will start. The improvements will cost well more than $1 million, he said.

Mark McClure, the hotel's general manager, said the new ownership "is very positive for us."

"It will give us the resources we need . . . to get the service level back up to where it once was and to try to deliver what people feel the Canterbury should provide," he said.

McClure said he would stay on, overseeing the 48 employees at the hotel and its restaurant.

Woodard prevailed in his bid over several other potential buyers, McClure said.

The Canterbury's room occupancy rate averaged 52 percent last year, McClure said. That's below the average Downtown hotel occupancy rate of 59.9 percent last year, according to Smith Travel Research.

Independent hotels like the Canterbury are at a disadvantage because they don't have the national marketing and reservations systems of their large chain competitors, such as Marriott hotels.

But Woodard said the Canterbury's one-of-a-kind image also could play to its advantage by luring guests who want a nonchain experience in their hotels.

"A small, unique, boutique hotel with 99 rooms has its place here in this market," said Woodard, who celebrated his purchase Monday by inviting his employees to the hotel for a champagne toast.

Call Star reporter Jeff Swiatek at (317) 444-6483.


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