A longstanding goal to have more than 1,000 hotel rooms in downtown Baton Rouge should be reached by the third quarter of 2016, when a 147-room Courtyard by Marriott opens at the corner of Third and Florida streets.
Downtown and tourism leaders have said breaking the 1,000 hotel room mark is important, since it’s a number that meeting planners consider to be crucial for scheduling events. Downtown currently has 820 hotel rooms, and an 89-room Holiday Inn Express is set to open in March on North Boulevard.
“One thing it does, it puts you on a level when they start to list cities in different publications with 1,000 hotel rooms in close proximity to the convention center,” said Paul Arrigo, president and chief executive officer of Visit Baton Rouge. “This will allow us to pursue larger pieces of business.”
Arrigo said Visit Baton Rouge will be able to start promoting downtown as having 1,000 hotel rooms once construction begins on the eight-story Courtyard by Marriott and a realistic time frame for opening has been established.
“I think they’ll have the in-house staff at the hotel selling those rooms before that,” he said.
Rachel Wimberly, editor-in-chief of the Trade Show News Network, a news and online resource for the trade show, exhibition and event industry, said if a city has a nice convention center but not enough downtown hotel rooms, “you will not be considered competitive.”
Wimberly said Baton Rouge has a lot to offer organizers of “small- to mid-sized meetings” that move around the U.S. “Baton Rouge is well-thought-of in terms of fun things to do, so that adds to the appeal,” she said.
The $20 million hotel will be owned by developer Windsor Aughtry Co., based in Greenville, South Carolina. Windsor Aughtry developed the Hampton Inn & Suites at Main and Lafayette streets, which opened in May 2013.
Having a Marriott-branded property to go along with the Hampton Inn, which is part of the Hilton Hotels family, is important for business travelers who are “points junkies,” said Paul C. “Bo” Aughtry III, a principal with the company.
Designs for the hotel will be completed in about six months, but plans are for the property to have about 2,000 square feet of meeting space, an exercise room and a business center. About 35 percent of the rooms will have balconies. There will be about 1,500 square feet of retail space on the first floor available for lease.
About 45 people are expected to work at the hotel. Construction will support about 125 jobs.
Hospitality America, of Nashville, Tennessee, will manage the hotel. Hospitality America is also the Hampton Inn’s management company.
The Courtyard by Marriott will be built at 260 Third St., formerly the site of the Istrouma Hotel. The hotel was demolished in March 1969, eight years after closing, and the site became a parking lot. The new hotel will pay tribute to the property’s history by having an Istrouma public courtyard.