NORFOLK, Va.—On the heels of updates to its two restaurants—Shula’s 347 Grill and The Dining Room—the Norfolk Waterside Marriott is in the early stages of a three-year plan to bring new life and bookings to its convention destination. Originally completed in 1991, the 24-floor building is currently under renovation with updates taking place from the lobby to the penthouse suites, creating a more architectural, clean, and modern aesthetic. The hotel will also be adding a three-foot-tall autonomous Relay robot butler, named MARY-BOT, which will be put to work delivering snack and sundries, linens, and even full meals, with an average delivery time of five minutes from receiving its shipment contents.
“With local demand for convention space growing, and an increasingly competitive landscape here in downtown Norfolk, we were looking for creative ways to better meet the needs of our business and leisure guests,” said Duane Gauthier, managing director for Commonwealth Lodging Management, operator for the property. “While the updates to our 407 rooms will certainly be a driver for guests, we’re hoping that this spirit of innovation and creativity will reach beyond our walls into the Norfolk community.”
Designed and built by Savioke, Norfolk Marriott’s Relay robot will begin serving guests in the first quarter of 2019. When guests call to request a delivery, staff will load items into a bin on MARY-BOT, type in the room number and press go. Using sensors and a secure wireless connection to the elevator system, MARY-BOT will navigate its way to guestrooms using chirpy and swivel noises. When MARY-BOT reaches its destination, the robot butler will phone guests to announce its arrival, allowing guests to then retrieve their items.
“We are excited to see Relay navigating through the corridors and lobbies of the Norfolk Marriott, helping the staff while serving and delighting the guests,” says Steve Cousins, founder and CEO, Savioke. “As our first deployment in Virginia, the Norfolk Marriott’s popularity and technology-forward aesthetic makes it an ideal hotel to show off the safe and reliable capabilities and friendly personality of the Relay delivery solution.”
Updates to guest suites began in early November and will continue through August 2019. Comprehensive Development Strategies will be managing the project. Paramount Commercial Renovations will be leading room renovations, which include updating room bathrooms, adding barn-style interior doors, installing new 55″ televisions and refrigerators, and modernizing the décor, including chaise lounges in king rooms that convert to a queen bed. RFID room locks will also be installed, which use radio signals and tend to be easier and more reliable than keycards. Updates will also be made to the penthouse floor with the addition of a new junior presidential suite and an adjoining king suite. Paramount Commercial Renovations will close up to four floors at a time in an effort to minimize guest disruption.
Beginning in June 2019, work will begin on the lobby and the presidential foyer on the third floor. Lobby updates will include a new concierge lounge, called M Club, for Platinum and Gold Marriott Reward members and VIPs have access to WiFi, a breakfast buffet, grab and go snacks, drinks, evening hors d’oeuvres, and Marriott team members at the ready to provide recommendations. All hotel guests will also have access to a new Lobby Café that will offer Starbucks from early morning through mid-afternoon as well as The Market, which will sell snacks and sundries 24 hours a day.
In June, the property will add a new high-end bar, which will replace an existing piano lounge. The new space will feature an expansive full-wall bar and a shuffleboard table, and will be flexible to accommodate up to 75 guests for private events.
Updates to the convention space will begin with the renovation of the Presidential Foyer and continue into the first quarter of 2020. The foyer will be converted into a conference registration space with a built-in glass boardroom. The adjoining outdoor balcony will be updated and re-furnished with new outdoor furniture.
“While its ambitious in scope, we felt that it was time to give this distinctive skyline property an update,” said Gauthier. “We are confident with our significant investment, we will elevate this property to be the premier convention hotel in the state of Virginia”.