Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Two hotel renovations signal the beginning of more to come

Six more hotels set to be built in Rockville in the coming years

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The increase in hotel construction and renovations points toward an ‘‘upswing” in the hotel industry in Rockville, city officials say.

Officials point to the major renovations at two new hotels, Legacy Hotel and The Hilton, which held opening ceremonies in recent weeks, as the beginning of an increase in the number of hotel rooms in the city.

There are currently 10 hotels in Rockville with a capacity of approximately 1,700 rooms, according to the Conference and Visitors Bureau of Montgomery County. The total number of hotel rooms in the county is about 8,300.

Conference and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Kelly Groff said occupancy has decreased in the county in the last three years, but revenue has increased. Revenue peaked in 2005, increasing by 15 percent over the previous year, and continues to increase, but at a lower rate. The revenue increased by 3.6 percent last year.

‘‘The new hotel development opening dates will mostly like coincide with an optimistic and growing economy in the next few years,” Groff said.

In the next few years, Rockville can expect at least six more hotels opening in Fallsgrove, Tower Oaks and downtown Rockville, among other communities.

‘‘It’s a hot industry at the moment,” Sally Sternbach, executive director of Rockville Economic Development Inc., said.

Sternbach said the demand for hotel rooms in Rockville is increasing, especially for those traveling for business, but hotels do not have the space to meet that demand.

‘‘Washington is close to pricing itself out of hotel market,” Sternbach said. ‘‘We simply don’t have sufficient capacity here. Some have gone as far as the BWI area to find a hotel room.”

The city conducted a feasibility study of the hotel market, she said, which resulted in a recommendation for a hotel in downtown Rockville.

That hotel is expected to break ground by the end of this year.

Two longstanding hotels in Rockville recently changed hands and completed major renovations to attract business travelers and community members alike.

The Legacy Hotel and Meeting Centre, which celebrated its grand opening on May 7, is aiming to capture the legacy of Rockville through art and décor.

The Hilton Washington D.C.⁄Rockville Hotel and Executive Meeting Center, located across Rockville Pike from the Legacy, celebrated its grand opening on April 23, unveiling the multimillion-dollar renovation of its lobby and atrium, in addition to the 315 guest rooms and suites.

The Legacy combines contemporary furnishings with photos of popular Rockville landmarks to provide its customers with a unique experience, said Rosalind McCollough, the hotel’s director of sales and marketing.

Each of the hotel’s six floors of guest rooms has a different theme related to Rockville. The aviation floor pays homage to the former Congressional Airport, which was located on the land on which the hotel now sits.

The other floors include photographs to highlight the area’s booming biotechnology industry, native plants and animals, architecture and local sports teams.

The idea was formed through a partnership with hotel officials and mbox communications president Timothy Law.

‘‘We thought it would be very cool to pay tribute to Rockville,” Law said. ‘‘I’ve lived in the area my whole life, so I know from experience what is relevant, what Rockville is known for and what would be most memorable for someone to stay there.”

Law said they wanted to incorporate all aspects of Rockville.

‘‘A lot of what travelers see is the [Rockville] Pike, but there’s so much more than the Pike,” Law said.

The Rockville theme extends into the more than 9,000-square-foot meeting center, where photos from the city’s past and present line the walls.

Legacy and mbox partnered with Peerless Rockville Historic Preservation to obtain photographs of Rockville from the early 20th century. Photos of current Rockville landmarks were taken specifically for the hotel, capturing shots of places like the Rockville Town Square and the Rockville Metro station from various angles.

The hotel offers state-of-the-art rooms to its guests, with flat-screen televisions, free wireless Internet access and iPod clock radios in each room.

Legacy also houses a Phillip’s Seafood, which opened in April. The popular seafood restaurant is known as a regional favorite.

The Legacy officially transitioned from the Ramada Inn into Rockville’s first boutique hotel on March 1 and renovations were completed by the end of that month.

Hilton officials said they are aiming for the hotel to become a community gathering place.

‘‘The whole atrium area is a nice place to come in and meet friends,” said Jim Cree, director of sales and marketing for the hotel.

Renovations, which included the addition of the Twinbrook Grill, a restaurant that offers breakfast, lunch and dinner within the atrium, and Riffs Lounge, where guests can enjoy jazz music while having a drink, were completed in December, Cree said.

‘‘We’re giving people the opportunity for flexibility in their busy lifestyles to enjoy aspects of taking the outdoors in,” he said.

The atrium also offers free wireless Internet access.

‘‘It’s like one big major upgrade,” Cree said.

The Hilton is also certified by the International Association of Conference Centers, with 20,000 square feet of space for meetings, conferences and banquets.