The hotel count keeps adding up in Bricktown, with plans released Wednesday for a 137-room Staybridge Suites.
The additional investment is being welcomed by Bricktown civic leaders, but not without repeated warnings that design standards must be maintained, and concerns that the market may get overheated.
The five-story Staybridge, to be built on the northeast corner of Lincoln Boulevard and Reno Avenue, is one of nine hotels either announced, being designed or under construction. Bricktown is already home to a 151-room Residence Inn and a 150-room Hampton Inn.
If all of the hotels are built, Bricktown will be home to more than 1,400 rooms, with the total investment topping $100 million.
“We've got another land run to get into the downtown area,” said Mike Carrier, president of the Oklahoma City Convention and Visitors Bureau. “But the challenge is where are the users of these properties going to come from? My concern is some of that demand will come from other areas of the city or surrounding cities.”
Concerns also are being expressed about design standards of the developers, most of whom are more accustomed to building suburban and interstate hotels.
A Holiday Inn Express set to be built this spring at 101 E Main went through three significant redesigns before the final plans were approved last month by the Bricktown Urban Design Committee, which is tasked with overseeing new construction and exterior renovations in the old warehouse district.
Wednesday, developer Danny Patel also was cautioned against assuming his current designs for the Staybridge Suites will win the committee's approval.
The designs presented for the committee's feedback showed a five-story building set back 20 feet from the street with brick covering the lower 65 percent of the building with the remaining facade consisting of synthetic stucco.
Patel explained the angled footprint of the hotel was necessary due to state highway and drainage easements on the property. He also explained the facade design was called for as part of a “prototype” standard set by Staybridge Suites.
“The consistency is very important in lodging,” Patel said. “Like McDonald's, it's like with the french fries — they want the consistency. People are comfortable in knowing what they can expect.”
Committee members were sympathetic to the challenges posed by the site, but were firm in their opposition to the design, which they noted also include a gabled roof and other features that conflict too much with the district's historic warehouse mosaic.
Committee member Bob Bright mused that McDonald's used the same “prototype” argument when the company sought to build a restaurant at 501 E Reno Ave. The company ultimately redesigned the restaurant to better reflect the surrounding architecture after the first “prototype” plans were roundly criticized by the committee.
“That argument doesn't fly,” Bright warned Patel. “If they want to be here, they'll adapt to the standards we have.”
Such scrutiny is welcomed by Carrier, who doesn't want to see downtown flooded with substandard hotel development.
He noted the committee prompted developers to upgrade designs for the Hampton Inn while the Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority oversaw the conversion of plans for a standard Courtyard by Marriott just west of Bricktown to what most qualifies as a full-service, upscale hotel.
“There is an expectation when it comes to downtown quality,” Carrier said. “Hampton and Courtyard are at a higher quality level than many of their counterparts in other areas, other cities.”
The hotels, Carrier added, also are enjoying high occupancy rates year after year. Carrier believes the success at all downtown hotels is driving the interest in new development.
“We're not seeing anywhere near that potential growth in other parts of the city,” Carrier said. “Right now downtown is running highest occupancy and highest daily rate. That's because there aren't a lot of rooms and there is a lot of business that wants to be downtown. The question is whether this demand is sufficient for these types of hotels.”
Jane Jenkins, president of Downtown Oklahoma City Inc., welcomes the influx of new hotels, but worries about the rapid pace of development.
“I'm sure there's been a demonstrated market for hotels in downtown Oklahoma City,” Jenkins said. “That the market is going this fast is a bit surprising. I hope we don't overbuild in the frenzy of getting this done, that we're not moving too quickly.”
Jenkins and Carrier also noted a 500- to 600-room conference hotel is also to be added over the next few years as part of development of a new convention center south of the Myriad Gardens.
“A convention hotel won't be in Bricktown or Deep Deuce, but still, it's a lot of inventory we're looking at,” Jenkins said.
“As these projects come on line, and if we get it all at the same time, one thing we'll have to look at is visitor services and infrastructure,” Jenkins said. “We need to be looking now at what that influx of visitors will do, and how we can accommodate those visitors. It's not a small number. It will increase pedestrians and traffic. We have issues we'll need to address.”