It is in the midst of a $14 million renovation that will give it a new look from top to bottom and inside and out, said Marriott General Manager Tom Underwood.
Underwood said there are various reasons why the hotel decided to invest the money at this time.
“It was overdue for renovations and it had become an underperforming hotel,” he said.
The hotel was acquired for $53 million in January 2008 by Apple REIT Cos., a Richmond-based firm that wanted to improve the property, especially at a time when there were numerous improvements occurring along that stretch of Broad Street.
One of the first steps the city’s largest hotel took was to redo all of the guest rooms and in the process even created 11 new ones boosting the total to 410, Underwood said.
All of the guest rooms have been made over with new carpet, wall covering, beds, desks and flat screen TVs.
The rooms are technologically enhanced, with a device that provides connections for a variety of electronic equipment. The desk in each room will slide open to line up with the television screen, which can be used as a computer monitor, with split-screen capability for TV and computer simultaneously.
The hotel’s fitness center has been enlarged and equipped with all new workout machines that have individual TV screens, as well as new flooring, wall vinyl and windows.
The biggest changes have yet to happen. They involve completely redoing the ground floor area, Underwood said.
For starters, the hotel will remove the traditional long front desk counter where guests sign in. It will have individual check-in stations, much like you see at airports, where the employee can step around and have closer interaction with guests. There also will be self-service check-in stations, Underwood said.
The lobby will have all new furniture with laptop hookups. There will be multiple flat-screen TVs throughout the lobby.
Another change is that waiters will serve food and beverages to guests seated anywhere in the lobby.
“This grew out of some research that found business travelers don’t always want to sit in a room by themselves,” Underwood said.
The coffee shop, which already serves Starbuck’s coffee will be redone as a fully licensed Starbuck’s shop, with the full line of products the company offers.
One of the most noticeable changes will be the restaurant. The existing BlueFire Steakhouse will be replaced with a sports bar that Underwood says will have “a high energy, media driven” look.
It will add outdoor seating at 6th and Broad to accommodate 60 diners, Underwood said. He’s hopeful this will bring in people who are going for shows at the Richmond CenterStage performing arts center across the street or The National music hall in the next block.
The Marriott also will have a new entrance with a water wall and the brick on the front of the hotel will be replaced with a cream-colored tile, matching the new color that will be carried throughout the hotel, Underwood said.
The work is scheduled to be finished in August and a grand reopening will occur sometime in September, close to the opening of the performing arts center, Underwood said.
“It’s an investment for the whole neighborhood,” said Jack Berry, president and CEO of the Richmond Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Berry pointed to the numerous property upgrades in recent years in the area: the Hilton Gardens earlier this year, a new federal courthouse opened last year, the performing arts center is set for a September opening, a $178 million Convention Center is just a few years old, and The National Theater has been redone.
He said the timing of the work is perfect timed to be in place when the economy turns around. Prices are already climbing in the area, Berry said.
“All in all the tide raises all the boats,” Berry said.