|By Bill Wilson, The Wichita Eagle,
Kan.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
April 19, 2011--Jack DeBoer is returning to his roots, with a boutique hotel concept to rebrand the garden apartment-style extended-stay chain that he founded in 1975.
The first look at that new brand opens May 1 in Wichita, when the first Residence Inn at Main and Kellogg reopens as the Hotel at Waterwalk on the southern end of the downtown Wichita mixed-use commercial development.
DeBoer has refreshed the concept and plans to take the idea on the road, he said, targeting the original apartment-like 103 Residence Inns across the country for purchase or renovation.
"The reason? I'm a type A," DeBoer said. "This was 35 years ago. I think this place has real value as a condo, but I'm going to run it as a hotel."
Marriott's new Residence Inns have moved from the DeBoer apartment style to more high-rise, the Wichita entrepreneur said. The change offers him an opportunity to step into the market as either a buyer or renovator of the older hotels.
"We're either going to offer to update the concepts for their owners to help improve revenue, or we're going to offer to buy them and do the work for ourselves," said David Redfern, who runs DeBoer's Value Place extended stay chain.
The idea grew out of the Wichita complex's struggles, DeBoer said. It remained successful, but revenue was trending downward as the facility aged.
"I am an apartment builder," he said. "I had an offer to sell it, and I decided, frankly, that this is my home, and I knew how the buyer was going to run it, so I said no."
DeBoer believes the residence-style hotels still have a place in the market.
"The niche works," he said. "The way these places are right now, they don't have a lot of value. But when we add these kinds of improvements, we add more value than it costs to do the projects. I think people are still willing to pay a little more for this product all across the country."
DeBoer didn't specify target markets. Nightly rates should run in the low $100s, Redfern said.
"Every market is different," DeBoer said. "But everybody talks trash about Detroit, but there's a couple up there I would buy.
"We don't have a definite plan at this point, but there are 103 of the original Generation 1 Residence Inns... that you can either let deteriorate or fix. We're looking for more Gen 1s to do this."
The all-suites Wichita hotel, founded by DeBoer as the Residences, features original artwork by local artists Deb Drager and Christine Tasheff.
The rooms essentially were gutted, with new heating and air, kitchens, bathrooms, lighting and insulation. The energy efficiency improvements should cut monthly utility costs in half, DeBoer and Redfern said.
The new brand is tailored to business and leisure travelers, Redfern said. There will be nightly rates, but the 500-square-foot rooms are set up with kitchens for extended stays. Select rooms include fireplaces and second floor loft bedrooms. Bar and personalized amenities also are available.
DeBoer's Residence Inn developed 103 hotels before selling to Marriott Corp.
In 1988, DeBoer co-founded Summerfield Hotel Corp., later purchased by Hyatt. In 1995, he founded Candlewood Hotel Co. and developed 130 hotels before selling to InterContinental Hotels Group in 2003.
DeBoer currently operates the short-term apartment concept ValuePlace, which he founded in June 2002.
Marriott spokeswoman Jackie Berra did not return calls seeking comment for the story.
Reach Bill Wilson at 316-268-6290 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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