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LR Marriott tears up lobby, updates rooms

By Jack Weatherly

This article was published March 15, 2014 at 2:45 a.m.


The Little Rock Marriott’s 418 guestrooms are being given a new color and design scheme.

The air in the cavernous lobby of the Little Rock Marriott was filled with dust and the clatter of jackhammers Friday.

Gone was the fountain that was the playground for the famed Peabody ducks, which left after the 19-story, 418-guestroom hotel changed operators and brands last year.

The lobby’s high-back, padded benches were shoved over to the side to make way for the great room look.

Those changes and many more will constitute a $16 million redo of the hotel that was built by Doyle Rogers and opened as the Excelsior in 1982, then was leased to the Memphis-based Peabody Hotel Group in 2001 and reopened in early 2002 after $42 million was spent on it.

The operation has been redone, too.

For whatever regional charm and recognition the Peabody had, the Marriott brand wields a national reservation system and points program.

The changes are paying off, said Bruce Skidmore, director of sales and marketing, as he had been for Peabody.

Occupancy rates for 2013were up 5.4 percent over 2012, without Marriott running the hotel for all 12 months, Skidmore said. He would not disclose occupancy rates. Corporate group meetings showed a “tremendous uptick,” he said.

Room rates during the week start at $164, compared with $149 at the changeover, and at $109 on weekends, compared with $119 last May, he said.

Construction and redecoration began Feb. 7 and will be completed on time, by late July, Skidmore said.

One floor of the 15 guestroom floors has been totally redecorated, he said.

The new color scheme is in the silver and slate palette, compared with the earth tones of Peabody. First upgrade for the rooms was the replacement of 12-year-old tube televisions with 42-inch flat-screen TVs.

The plants along the hallways that overlook the atrium will go, eliminating what Skidmore said was an ’80s look.

Yet to be redone is the interior of the glass elevators, which still have a Peabody Mallard as a floor decoration.

One bit of history that won’t go is the Doyle Rogers Suite on the 19th floor in honor of the hotel’s builder and his wife, Raye, 91, who both made it their home for 18 or 19 years. The hotel is working toward making it a memorial - though rentable. Doyle Rogers died last year at age 94.

The suite is one of four bilevel spaces on the 19th floor,with 1,500 square feet or more and rates running from $550 to $850.

“I can’t wait to see the final product. It’s certainly a complement to a wonderful city,” Mayor Mark Stodola said at a news conference. Little Rock owns the hotel and the adjoining Statehouse Convention Center. Fairwood Capital LLC now holds the lease and chose the Marriott brand for the hotel.

Information for this article was contributed by Gavin Lesnick of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Business, Pages 29 on 03/15/2014

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