Dual-brand projects remain a popular development model with hotel companies, so popular that they strive to outdo each other, with each new project continuing to refine the concept.
The latest “variation on a theme” occurred last week (July 1) with the grand opening of two Marriott International brands—a 219-suite Residence Inn and a 174-room Courtyard—in a single building located on the growing L.A. Live campus in downtown Los Angeles.
Unlike other dual-brand hotels, which have separate lobby check-ins for each brand and typically separate elevator access, the new Los Angeles “twofer” breaks ground by having a single front desk and including both Residence Inn and Courtyard guestrooms on all but the top two floors of the newly constructed building.
Given that the Residence Inn room is larger and, like most upscale extended-stay brands, includes a full-kitchen, those two top floors are devoted strictly to Residence Inn.
“Along with the four-year-old, dual-brand JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton across the street, we’re now able to offer the consumer a broader range of options downtown,” noted Eric Jacobs, Marriott’s chief development officer for North America select-service and extended-stay hotels.
The opening of the $170 million project marked two other firsts for the quickly gentrifying downtown neighborhood: while the Residence Inn is the first, purpose-built extended-stay hotel in the area, the Courtyard is the first branded select-service hotel to open there in 20 years.
Jacobs and Janis Milham, SVP of modern essential and extended-stay brands, represented Marriott at the ribbon-cutting ceremonies, accompanied by J.W. Marriott Jr., executive chairman and chairman of the board, who appeared on video, welcoming the new hotel and praising the change that L.A. Live has brought to the city’s downtown.
Twofer projects like these allow developers to build two different brands targeting two different kinds of guest stays in one building. “You’re doubling your project’s target audience,” Milham said.
This is particularly advantageous in urban markets like Los Angeles, where available land is at a premium and the barriers to entry are high, Milham added.
All of each brand’s standards and amenities are included. The hotel features a fitness center, outdoor swimming pool, business center, full-service restaurant, lobby café, grab-and-go market, and guest laundry.
Operationally, there are synergies that represent potentially significant cost savings. “You have one general manager for both brands, one engineer and maintenance staff, one security team and, in the case of this particular project, one front desk team,” explained Diane Mayer, Residence Inn VP and global brand manager.
Considering the project’s proximity to the Los Angeles Convention Center, it also made sense that the developers—American Life Inc. and Williams & Dame Development—opted to add more meeting and event space than these brands’ hotels would usually contain. The hotel has almost 8,000 square feet of such space, including a 3,633-square-foot meeting room, divisible by three, two boardrooms, a hospitality suite, and indoor and outdoor pre-function space.
With traditional lending hard to come by during the downturn when the project was in the planning stages, American Life Inc. and Williams & Dame Development opted to finance the undertaking with an innovative vehicle known as EB-5. Established by the Federal government to foster job creation, EB-5 allows foreign nationals to invest in appropriate projects in the United States in return for visas. More than 320 such investors invested in the Courtyard and Residence Inn from countries as diverse as Hong Kong, Columbia, and the U.K.
With two successful deals at L.A. Live under their belts, Marriott development executives are in discussion with L.A. Live parent AEG and the developers to construct a third hotel carrying another Marriott flag on vacant land adjacent to the Courtyard/Residence Inn and still on the L.A. Live campus. The projected completion date? 2017. The brand? Renaissance.