The group that is buying Harrah’s Vicksburg Hotel and Casino is branching into downtown Jackson.
Columbia-Sussex Corporation has agreed to purchase the Crowne Plaza Jackson Hotel Downtown for an undisclosed sum from FelCor Lodging Trust (NYSE: FCH), a real estate investment trust (REIT). The closing date is anticipated within 60 days.
“We’ll reflag it as a Marriott after extensive renovation,” said Joe Yung, director of development for Columbia-Sussex. “Renovations will begin immediately. We’re going to put in a new HVAC system, redo the rooms and the lobby and the meeting space. It’s a total renovation.”
Yung said renovations would not require closing the 21-story hotel. “All work will be done while it’s open,” he said.
Even though Yung did not have a projected completion date for the renovation, he said the company hopes to have much of it finished by the time The Glory of Baroque Dresden international exhibition opens at the Mississippi Arts Pavilion on March 1, 2004.
Columbia-Sussex Corporation, established in 1972 in Ft. Mitchell, Ky., is privately held by the William Yung family, and operates 58 hotels, resorts and casinos in 26 states, including the Lighthouse Point and Bayou Caddy’s Jubilee casinos in Greenville.
The company, one of the largest Marriott franchisees in the U.S. with 25 properties, also operates franchises for hotel brands such as Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn, Westin and Radisson. Last year, the corporation reported sales of about $600 million, said Yung.
Columbia-Sussex approached FelCor Lodging Trust, owner of 180 hotels located in 35 states, Canada and overseas, after the company learned a broker listed the property for sale.
“Marriott is a much stronger brand than Crowne Plaza and we believe it is a good fit for a vibrant downtown,” he said. “My father and I are familiar with the market because we have stayed at the Crowne Plaza several times while attending gaming commission meetings and at the Edison Walthall a couple of times. We felt there was a need for better hotel rooms in downtown Jackson.”
The 358-room hotel, located at 200 East Amite Street, features 35,000 square feet of meeting space that accommodates up to 1,200 people and features the largest ballroom in the metro area and one of the largest in the tri-state area.
“I don’t think we’ll have the potential to expand the meeting facilities, but we’ll remodel them to state-of-the-art,” he said. “We haven’t explored doing anything in conjunction with Harrah’s Vicksburg and that wasn’t a consideration for doing the deal. Marriotts typically aren’t involved with gaming operations.”
Crowne Plaza Jackson Hotel Downtown, operated by Bristol Hotel and Resorts, also features a comprehensive fitness center and outdoor swimming pool and a skywalk that links the hotel to the AmSouth Building, which is undergoing a $700,000 lobby renovation.
Several Columbia-Sussex hotels are being renovated, including a 400-room Marriott in Myrtle Beach, S.C. Earlier this year, Columbia-Sussex acquired the Maxim in Las Vegas and is nearing completion of a $40 million renovation of the 795-room hotel and casino. It is scheduled to open later this year as the Westin Casuarina, Las Vegas. The company has also contracted to purchase the River Palms Casino in Laughlin, Nev., and is awaiting regulatory approval for the transaction.
“With good hotel rooms in downtown Jackson, you should get a lot more people staying downtown,” said Yung. “Obviously, we hope it does to help fill up the hotel. Right now, even with businesses in downtown Jackson, people have a tendency to stay at the Jackson Hilton, just because they have the better rooms. Certainly having more business downtown and tourists on the weekends will help everybody.”
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at email@example.com.