Driftwood Hospitality Set for Fall 2019 Opening of Canopy by Hilton in West Palm Beach, Florida
Alexandra Clough | The Palm Beach Post, Fla. | February 7, 2019 12:00am
Feb. 07--The rooftop bar and pool deck at the Canopy by Hilton Hotel aren't yet completed. The design finishes still are underway throughout the property.
But the downtown West Palm Beach hotel already is booking convention rooms for 2020 and beyond. That's according to Michael Diaz, chief operating officer of Driftwood Hospitality, the hotel's North Palm Beach-based developer.
The Canopy's opening is slated for October. When completed, the 150-room hotel at 1718 S. Dixie Highway will be a boutique property geared to millennials -- every marketer's dream consumer.
This 14-story hotel is going full millennial with room selection and check-in services available via a mobile device, bicycles and scooters at the ready for getting around town and maybe even a robot delivering room service.
Evening tastings of local beer, wine and spirits will be complimentary. There also is a gym, a 6th floor outdoor deck that can host special events and about 3,000 square feet of meeting space.
Despite the nod to young people's habits, folks of all ages are welcome, too, especially business travelers.
Given the property's location downtown, amid major office buildings and near the Palm Beach County Convention Center, the property is expected to draw business and convention travel, as well as leisure travel.
This means the Canopy could be an important bellwether for the tourism business growth tied to the West Palm Beach-based convention center.
If the future is anything like the past, business should be strong. Discover The Palm Beaches, the tourism marketing organization for Palm Beach County, reported a 98 percent increase in room nights booked by Discover's sales team for groups, meetings and conventions from 2014 through 2018.
Last year saw the highest convention booking, with 231,000 nights booked for hotel rooms.
Guests staying at the Canopy will learn a lot about West Palm Beach because the brand incorporates the locale into the design of the property.
What says West Palm Beach these days? Trains, for one. While there won't be toy model Brightline cars in the lobby, there will be a hint of railroad in some of the d?cor, including the artwork in guestrooms plus in some pieces around the property, Diaz said.
The railroad is meant to evoke Henry Flagler, whose decision to build trains south to Florida helped galvanize development in this beachy, swampy state.
The most striking feature of the Canopy will be the public art built into the space.
The work includes a series of nine root-like structures that appear to crack through the ceiling and toward the floor, and a 10-foot banyan "root" that appear to break through the southern wall of the hotel's ground floor restaurant and into the sidewalk below.
The "roots" will be made of hand-painted tubing, dipped in sand and interwoven with hand-blown crystals. The artist creating the work is Norweigian-born Terje Lundaas of Miami.
Driftwood President David Buddemeyer acknowledged this Canopy hotel has not been the world's easiest construction project.
The space is small and the details are intense, including the glass fa?ade on the project's exterior. "We're pulling off quite a feat on a tight footprint," Buddemeyer said.
The hotel's construction was expected to cost about $33 million, but a spokeswoman said that number may be higher given the job's complexity.
But the work and expense may well be worth it for Driftwood executives, who say they're bullish on West Palm Beach. "The last ten years have been amazing in terms of residential and commercial activity," Diaz said. "It's what attracted us to put a hotel here."
The convention center's creation, plus the larger meetings being booked due to the Hilton convention center hotel, also were factors in deciding to build the property, Burke said.
Driftwood started 20 years ago, with 11 employees and three hotels. Today the company has a 58-property portfolio and 62 employees based in Palm Beach County, in addition to 4,000 employees nationwide. Hilton isn't Driftwood's only brand. It also works with Marriott International, Starwood Hotels, InterContinental Hotels Group and Hyatt Hotels Corporation.
In addition to its existing portfolio, some 17 hotels are under development for Driftwood. The company's hospitality management team is in North Palm Beach but its acquisition and development arm is in Miami.
Consequently, Driftwood many of its properties are clustered in its backyard, Miami-Dade and Broward counties. But Palm Beach County is a growing market, too, and the West Palm Beach Canopy Hotel might not be the only Driftwood asset.
Buddemeyer, who call the company "opportunistic," said opportunity is knocking in the western communities, where thousands of homes are under construction or set to be built.
Buddemeyer said Driftwood is in talks with Minto, developer of the community known as Westlake in western Palm Beach County.
"It's early conversations," Buddemeyer said. "They want a hotel, and we're in the business and we're here."