The Doubletree Club by Hilton Hotel at the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus is rebranding as the Wyndham Garden Buffalo Downtown Hotel at the end of this month, after 15 years in the Hilton family.
The hotel, still owned by C/N Group of Merrillville, Ind., will change names as of Feb. 1, following a series of renovations totaling over $1.5 million to update the design to conform to the new brand's standards.
The owners redid the guestrooms, all four meeting rooms, the lobby and other public areas already, and are now wrapping up work on the Carlton's Grill & Bar restaurant and public restrooms, said Assistant General Manager Renee Pundt.
"It's going to be an expensive renovation," she said. "It's definitely an exciting time for us."
C/N Principal Raman "Rum" Chopra called it a "complete makeover" and "refreshing" of the property, especially the restaurant and bar, which now have four 65-inch television screens, among other features. Additional renovations are still likely in the next 12 months, he added.
"We're really excited about them. The early response has been nothing short of amazing," Chopra said. "We're really putting some effort to create some nice spaces so people can come together."
Originally opened in 1998 as the independent Pillars Hotel, the 70,784-square-foot hotel has been a Doubletree Club since 2003, but no longer fits the mold of what that hotel chain wants to be, Pundt said. Where the Hilton division is now focusing more on larger, resort-style properties, the Buffalo establishment is still "a small, boutique hotel," she explained.
"We don't have the capacity to put a pool in, and while we have banquet space, we don't have a grand ballroom," Pundt said. "We didn't fit their profile of what a Doubletree is compared to what it was in 2003, when it was small and quaint."
Chopra said the Buffalo hotel has been ranked among the chain's top 10 for customer service and loyalty, winning awards and accolades over the years. It was also one of the first Hilton-branded properties in Buffalo and its suburbs back in 2003. "We're very proud of that, to help bring Hilton to the city and help give them a beachhead," he said.
But he noted that Doubletree as a chain has grown significantly from its smaller roots, both in size and geographic spread, and now seeks to provide a more upscale and full-service experience for guests. Many of the brand's properties are new with much more space, where the Buffalo hotel is landlocked by other buildings on the campus, and couldn't keep up with "continually raised brand standards in terms of expectations," he said.
So C/N and Doubletree agreed three years ago to separate.
"We've enjoyed a very long and fruitful relationship with the brand, but they have tried to reposition," Chopra said. "We talked to the brand and mutually decided it's not a direction that such a small property can frankly succeed over the long-term."
Located at 125 High St., the eight-story hotel has 100 guest rooms and suites, and is connected directly to Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center. In turn, that links internally to Buffalo General Medical Center, Gates Vascular Institute, the new Oishei Children's Hospital, and now University at Buffalo's new medical school building.
"We're a very busy hotel, because we're the only hotel on the campus," Pundt said.
While those connections and proximity make it highly attractive for medical campus visitors, it's not entirely dependent on that market, either.
"We have a wide variety of business at the hotel," Pundt said, citing sports teams and other corporate accounts. "We're not just 100 percent medical."
With the change by C/N, the hotel becomes the first hotel in downtown Buffalo to carry the Wyndham name and the second Wyndham Garden in the area - after Ellicott Development's hotel on Main Street in Williamsville. Additionally, American Niagara Hospitality announced plans on Jan. 19 to rebrand its 188-room Days Inn in Niagara Falls under Wyndham's limited-service moniker, tripling the brand's presence in Western New York in just two months.
The medical campus hotel also will be joined downtown by one of the company's flagship upscale Wyndham Hotels, when the renovation of the former AM&A's Department Store building is completed. A Chinese investor group based in Flushing, Queens, is redeveloping the 10-story complex at 377 Main St. into a 340-room Wyndham Buffalo Hotel, aimed not only at the general public but especially at Asian tour groups coming up from New York City to visit Niagara Falls.
The $70 million project includes two restaurants, 6,000 to 8,000 square feet of retail space, a large pool and spa in the basement, and a 40,000-square-foot banquet and meeting space on the second floor. Crews with Loung Construction would also carve a 10-story atrium into the middle of the 375,000-square-foot complex to provide windows for interior guest rooms. There would also be six one-bedroom apartments on the top floor, reserved for hotel management.
Workers are now close to finishing the asbestos and other environmental abatement work on the upper floors, and will be transitioning to the basement, which had suffered damage from flooding in the past, said Steven Shen, a member of the investor group, known as Landco H&L.