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July 13, 2009

More on DoubleTree switch

After many months of work at a cost of more than $10 million, the hotel looming over Broadway in downtown Rochester is now a DoubleTree.

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Previously a Radisson Hotel, it is still owned by Rochester’s Chafoulias family.

Since DoubleTree is a Hilton brand, this switch gives the Chafouliases two Hilton hotels – Hilton Garden Inn and DoubleTree – in downtown.


Michael Smith, the director of operations for Chafoulias’ hotel management company called Titan Hospitality, says that means the sister hotels can work together more smoothly and better serve guests.


He stresses that the change is much more than a new name or even the addition of DoubleTree’s famous chocolate chip and walnut cookies given to guests at check-in.


“What we’re trying to do is to create a more metropolitan feel to the hotel,” he says. “That helps us stay up-to-date with the downtown, which I think is really ramping up.”


But is a $10 million upgrade during slow economic times worth it?


“Customers want fresh facilities. This is the cost of doing business,” Smith said.

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Part of the hotel’s “ramping up” has been the addition of Pescara, a new restaurant off the lobby owned and run by the culinary minds behind the successful Chester’s Kitchen and Bar across Broadway and as well as the opening of BluH20 Salon and Spa on the skyway level by Starbucks Coffee.


The salon, in particular, is “huge” for wedding parties, he said.


“Not too long ago, a bridal party went out of the hotel to have their hair done and it rained on their way back,” says Sam Anderson, special hotel consultant for the Chafoulias family. “It was a disaster.”


The immediate change that anyone familiar with the 21-year-old hotel will notice is the dramatic transformation of the lobby.


Gone is the dark wood, lush furnishings and sedate atmosphere with the check-in desk as the main focus.


Now a bright, open space in the lobby is dominated by a wall-sized electronic artwork that constantly changes. Guests can interact with it. It is also linked to the hotel entrance, which creates musical sounds based on the movement of people through the door.


Another artwork features metal pipes with electronic lighting on top. A glass entryway leads into the Pescara restaurant.


While many of the changes were to bring the hotel in line with the DoubleTree format, the lobby alteration was the decision of the local management.


“The lobby was simply a design we chose. We chose a more modern, progressive look over the classic style we formerly had,” says Smith.


However nice a lobby looks or however good a connected restaurant or salon is, the real point for guests is the room.


“They are very well appointed. They each have a microwave, refrigerator, special Wolfgang Puck coffee as well as many other amenities,” says Smith.

At this point, eight of the 13 floors of rooms have been revamped to the new look. Smith expects the changeover of all 212 rooms to be complete by 2010.

Attracting travelers

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