POSTED ON AUGUST 4, 2010:
Brady District Checks In
Fairfield Inn & Suites is the latest hotel to make room downtown
With new development and business plans being put in motion in the Brady Arts District with regularity, hotel developer SJS Hospitality along with property owner Brady 41 have joined together to construct a Fairfield Inn & Suites hotel between Archer and Brady Streets.
"It's an up and coming area," said Jeff Hartman, operating partner for SJS Hospitality. "I think the Brady District is on the verge of really having an exposure of arts and entertainment for the downtown market."
The $11 million construction of the four-story hotel is proposed to begin January 2011, Hartman said. And the 108-room hotel will not be SJS Hospitality's first project.
The company owns and operates four other hotels in the Tulsa area, including the Holiday Inn Express and TownPlace Suites by Marriot near Bass Pro Shop in Broken Arrow. The company's most recent project was the redevelopment of the historic Atlas Life Building downtown into a Courtyard by Marriot Hotel, which opened this past June.
Hartman said he expects the construction of the hotel to be completed within 14 months. The Fairfield Inn & Suites, which will replace what is currently a parking lot east of Main Street between Archer Street and Brady Street, will be one more piece to the evolving Brady District, Hartman said.
"With ONEOK Field coming in and seeing the success they've had, if you look at ONEOK Field and go down Brady Street to where this site is, it's almost as if we're creating two bookends," he said. "Between that, there will be lots of development with loft apartments and parks and museums."
Greg Gray, president of the Brady Business Association, expects the hotel to help fill a void seen in the district.
"I'm very happy about it," he said, especially in light of the uncertainty that has been generated over the financial problems the nearby Crowne Plaza finds itself in. "Having something like this in the Brady District moves us toward a sustainable plan and makes us more of a 24/7 community.
"It'll sure help with special events, and even with some of the people who are playing at the Brady Theater, since their entire crew could stay there if they wanted."
The city's economic development director Mike Bunney has watched as this district has evolved and shifted industries throughout the past few years.
"The Brady is undergoing a change from a primarily commercial area to a walkable urban community," he said. "There is certainly a segment of our population who desire this type of lifestyle with arts, dining and entertainment all within an easy walk."
With this in mind, Hartman said the hotel will include 11,500 square feet of retail space on its first floor. Although companies to do this have not been selected, the space will most likely have a restaurant and club along with a coffee shop for daytime customers.
Hartman said a section of the retail will also be dedicated to a driving theme that has become a part of the district.
"If we can take some of that first floor and have something like an art gallery where the exhibits would switch out throughout the year, that could be a part of the arts community down there," he said.
The building itself will also reflect the district, with a brick exterior similar to surrounding warehouses, and exposed beams and an industrial feel in the interior.
Hartman said SJS Hospitality will not only partially own and develop the hotel but will also take the project on as the company's first opportunity to manage a hotel. However, Hartman said the company will most likely take a break after this hotel is completed.
"We need to sit back and wait for the demand to come back," he said.
With the exception of the Courtyard by Marriot downtown, the company's other hotels throughout the Tulsa area have seen a steady decline in occupancy levels since 2008.
"What we're seeing now is not a decline based on economy, but we're seeing a decline because of all these new hotels opening up," Hartman said. "Just in the south Tulsa area in the last four months, 400 new rooms have come online."
However, SJS Hospitality's hotel downtown tells a different story after seeing rapid success with 70 to 80 percent occupancy levels some nights, Hartman said. He attributes this increase in a declining industry to the development of downtown and a continued lack of hotels in the core of the city.
Even with both of Hartman's downtown ventures and other companies' plans to develop hotels downtown, such as the redevelopment of the former city hall building into a hotel, Bunney said there still remains a need for hotels in the downtown area.
"All of the survey and anecdotal evidence I have seen continues to support the need for hotel in the area to support a growing amount of visitors," he said. "We continue to hear that hotels at varying price points are needed to serve downtown visitors, whether they are traveling on business or to visit family or for destination travel."
The Fairfield Inn & Suites will be hitting a price point not seen at many other hotels in the downtown area, with the cost of a night's stay in the hotel ranging from $90 to $110.
"Everything else downtown is mid-hundreds and up," he said.
Bunney said the addition of the hotel might bring newcomers to the area.
"Another hotel located in the Brady will help us capture the visitor who might otherwise drive back home after a day trip to the art gallery," he said. "If we can get someone into the Brady for an afternoon event and then to stay overnight for a ballgame or a concert, the economy will be positively impacted."
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