In the Deep Deuce district, the city’s first Aloft is set to open this month. In March, Tulsa hotelier Paul Coury opened one of his signature Ambassador properties in Midtown.
Both are upscale hotels that cater to leisure travelers who want more than a bed, a cheese Danish and a cup of coffee in the morning. Both add rooms to the downtown inventory, but Michael Carrier, president of the Oklahoma City Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the area still needs larger hotels to meet demand.
In recent years, new hotels have continued to spring up downtown, but as more conventions, meetings and sporting events are held in the area, many hotels in the central business district are often filled to capacity.
In the first two months of 2014, Carrier said Oklahoma City bested the national average for hotel occupancy in a traditionally sluggish time. Hotel occupancy around the nation was at 56 percent. Oklahoma City as a whole was at 58.4 occupancy during that period. In downtown alone, occupancy was in excess of 72 percent during January and February.
“We’re outpacing the national average,” Carrier said.
Although Ambassador Hotel Midtown is in the boundaries of downtown, Carrier said he typically considers downtown hotels as the ones within a half mile ring of Chesapeake Energy Arena and Cox Convention Center.
But he said the Ambassador is a welcome addition. He uses that parameter when working to lure groups that will use the convention facilities and often have attendees moving about on foot.
Carrier said there are currently 2,059 total rooms downtown, the Ambassador and Aloft hotels included. When a Holiday Inn Express opens in Bricktown later this year, that room count will climb to 2,183.
Carrier said downtown needs larger hotels and the city as a whole needs more full-service hotels that offer large meeting spaces, room service and restaurants that serve three meals a day.
“The major challenge we have is a lack of meeting space,” he said. “We have 152 hotels in Oklahoma City. Of that number, only 12-15 are full-service hotels.”
In November 2012, Coury brought his plans for the hotel to the Downtown Design Review Committee.
He sought to renovate a long- vacant medical office building at 1200 N. Walker Ave. The Osler building was constructed in three phases. The first three floors were built in 1928, three more were added in 1929 and a partial seventh floor was added in 1949.
Although based in Tulsa, Coury was no stranger to Oklahoma City. He developed and opened Colcord Hotel, 15 N. Robinson Ave., in the old Colcord office building and later sold it to Devon Energy Corp
He chose to brand the hotel with his Ambassador nameplate, rather than the building’s name as he had done with the Colcord, he said. Coury has other Ambassdor properties in Tulsa, Wichita and Kansas City.
The Oklahoma City location includes 54 rooms and six different room configurations.
“It’s a really nice property,” Carrier said.
The 134-room Aloft Oklahoma City Downtown-Bricktown is set to open April 17 at 209 N. Walnut Ave. The hotel, a part of high-end chain W Hotels, is the first Aloft in Oklahoma City. The developer and owner is Jim Thompson.
It is the first hotel in Deep Deuce, and the brand-new building sits on a bluff with sweeping views of Bricktown and downtown. Thompson said he hopes to lure business and leisure travelers and provide a hotel option for residents of nearby apartments to house their visiting friends and family.
It will include the brand’s signature w xyz bar and restaurant, as well as a rooftop dining terrace.
Anthony McDermid, lead designer on the project and principal at TAP Architecture, said the brand allows owners to customize the hotel interiors to their specific tastes.