By JACK WEATHERLY
Mike Burton loves to point out the subtleties of the Jackson Westin as he conducts a walking tour of the hotel under construction.
Such as the walls of the ground-floor passage from the east-facing lobby that are on a slight angle for a few paces, then an inset and another angled wall and so on, till the ballroom area is reached.
Outside the 7,000-square-foot ballroom is a sunlit space that wraps around the meeting area, which can be divided into four sections.
The light is fed from an oversized pergola, which offers an outside-in or inside-out flow.
Out through the vestibule, there’s the Mississippi Museum of Art and Thalia Mara Hall across the street, and the Jackson Convention Complex in the next block of Tombigbee.
Back to the lobby and to south is the bistro and wine bar, whose name was not pulled from a hat of chic-sounding names.
“Estelle” was chosen after much thought and discussion because it sounded right, it sounded Southern, Burton said.
There’s nothing subtle about Burton’s enthusiasm for the nine-story 203-guest-room hotel that will open Aug. 3 at 315 Tombigbee St. in the heart of downtown.
“It’s the nicest hotel in Jackson, for sure, and probably all of Mississippi,” he said. And it will employ about 140, he added.
Before coming to Jackson as general manager, Burton was manager of the Sheraton Dallas Hotel, the largest hotel in Starwood chain. He oversaw a $12 million renovation at the Sheraton and led the hotel to its first AAA Four Diamond rating.
The Westin chain was owned by Starwood till September, Marriott bought Starwood for $13 billion, making it the world’s largest hotel chain, with 30 brands, 5,700 properties and 1.1 million rooms in more than 110 countries.
A big selling point in the Starwood deal was its guest loyalty program, Starwood Preferred Guest, according to Arne Sorenson, president and chief executive of Marriott.
Members of the program are deeply loyal to it, have generally higher incomes and tend to spend many nights on the road, Sorenson said in an Associated Press article.
Joseph Simpson, speaking on behalf of the investment group Capital Hotel Associates LLC, of which he is a manager, told the Mississippi Business Journal that he is sticking with his previously stated average daily rate of around $145, though he said that might be a bit on the low side.
It would be similar to that of the Hilton Garden Inn in the old King Edward hotel at 235 Capitol St., whose rates for two nights in the middle of next week for one adult would be $144, and the 24-guest-room Old Capitol Inn at 226 North State St., a boutique hotel whose rate was $141 for those same dates. The Jackson Marriott at 200 East Amite St., with 303 guest rooms, advertised rooms for about $225 for those dates.
The $60 million project received $10 million in urban renewal bonds issued by the Jackson Redevelopment Authority and backed by the city, $20 million in bonds backed by Hinds County and $7 million in tax rebates through a Tax Increment Financing District.