One of the hospitality industry’s newest brands of extended-stay hotels is set to open in Western New York on Tuesday, as Benderson Development Co. completes its new Home2 Suites next to the new Cabela’s store in Cheektowaga.
The chic new 107-room hotel, located on Walden Avenue across from the Walden Galleria and visible from the Thruway, brings an innovative focus not only to business travelers, but to a technology-savvy younger clientele willing to socialize together, Benderson officials said.
The Home2 is a newer initiative by Hilton, and represents the second-generation of Hilton’s successful Homewood Suites, with slightly fewer amenities. There’s no evening reception, less housekeeping, and fewer hot items for breakfast.
That’s because this brand, with its vivid “green apple” color theme and eclectic fabric designs, is tailored to millennials and younger Generation Xers, who aren’t seeking a traditional hotel and don’t need as many services, officials said in explaining the features. These customers also are comfortable with making themselves at home, by moving furniture around – even in the Oasis lobby and lounge areas – or by getting their own plates and silverware from drawers and cabinets as they make their own complimentary breakfast in the common “Inspire Table” area.
“It’s more hip,” said Richard Schroen, vice president of operations for Buffalo Lodging LLC, the hotel division of Benderson. “I think you’ll see a lot of those young people... will really find this environment different.”
As an “extended-stay” hotel, the Home2 is designed for guests who stay for 10 to 29 days, and sometimes for even longer, if they’re on a long-term business contract in town or they’re being relocated here for months at a time. Officials stressed that it will also cater to so-called “transient” guests who are visiting Western New York as tourists or even just weekend shoppers, given its location in the region’s commercial mecca for Canadians. But the goal is for at least half the business to come from longer-term customers.
“That’s where we find a really great base business,” Schroen said. “It’s kind of a dual role hotel ... So we’ll be pulling from every aspect.”
To accommodate a technology-oriented generation, the four-story hotel is wired from the bottom to the top, with various outlets and USB ports throughout the building’s public spaces and guest suites, including the “working wall” that occupies an entire length of each guest room. Yet the goal of the hotel design is to encourage mingling among these younger hotel guests.
“You’re going to find inside that everything here is tailored around social activities,” Schroen said. “They want people to come down to the lobby and the BBQ area and the patio and the fire pit and mingle, and really feel like this is a true home.”
So rather than create separate areas on the first floor for guests to congregate, the Home2 design features a more open layout, with registration, the kitchen, an eating area, and the lounge and business area flowing through one large space, distinguished more by couches, chairs, bookcases and an island counter instead of walls. There’s also an outside fire pit and grill area, as well as a salt-water pool. And the fitness center is combined with guest laundry machines, televisions and Adirondack chairs in an area the hotel calls its Spin2 Cycle.
“That’s a really nice, sort of inviting and welcoming atmosphere,” said Eric Recoon, vice president for Benderson. “It’s very atypical of what you’d expect to see in a hotel. I’d expect to see it in a big home, which is what they’re aiming for, that comfort level.”
In an era with many hotel brands and service levels, and in a market experiencing a burst of new lodging options, Benderson is seeking to distinguish its newest entry from a lot of new competitors.
“There hasn’t been new supply to any great extent for years. And quite frankly, I question the need for this many more new hotels, not just Buffalo lodging, but there’s a lot of new hotels coming up,” Schroen said. “There’s some exciting things happening, but it doesn’t necessarily always equate to room nights, either. So it’s going to be a challenging couple of years for the hotel industry in Buffalo, no question.”
The hotel has already started taking advance reservations, with bookings into the summer and fall. And the developer believes the new 64,175-square-foot hotel’s location – while on the far end of a parking lot next to a Burlington Coat Factory store – is perfect, given its visibility alongside the Thruway and the ease of access to highways and major roads.
Just in case, he noted, the hotel also features its “beacon,” which is a brightly lit square plexiglass dome atop a neon green tower, which bumps out from the side of the otherwise drab brown-and-tan building – broadcasting its location like a lighthouse. “When you’re coming down the 90, you can’t miss the Home2,” Schroen said.
The Home2 features eight one-bedroom “King” suites of 672 square feet each, plus 34 “Queen-Queen-Junior” suites of 420 square feet and 65 “King-Junior” suites of 350 square feet. Each has a pullout sleeper sofa, rolling desks, ottomans and chairs, extra storage space, one or two flat-screen televisions, and a kitchenette with microwave, dishwasher and refrigerators. Hotplates are available but there are no ovens or stove tops.
Daily rates will average about $115 for this year, but “transient” summertime guests could be paying as much as $209 for the largest rooms that could handle a family of four. However, rates are lower the longer a guest stays. “It’s more cost-effective for us to run the hotel,” Schroen said. “There’s somewhat limited housekeeping on a daily basis. And typically we find that long-term guests bring their own amenities like shampoos and conditioners. They settle in. So it costs us a lot less to operate an extended-stay hotel. It’s more profitable.”