Two new hotels are gearing up for business on Scudders Mill Road on the site of the previous Wyndham Princeton Forrestal Hotel and Conference Center.
Holiday Inn Express Princeton Southeast, a 62-room hotel that has been in operation for several months, will celebrate its grand opening on Wednesday, February 20, at 5 p.m.
“We’ve made changes inside. We’ve made changes outside. We’ve made changes everywhere our guests told us would mean the most to them,” says the event announcement.
Still undergoing renovations next door to the Holiday Inn is a Crowne Plaza hotel that will feature 367 rooms, 64 conference rooms, 47,000 square feet of meeting space, and a 367-seat amphitheater.
According to Richard Cimilluca, Crowne Plaza director of sales and marketing, the first phase of the hotel, which includes a tower with about 150 guest rooms, the lobby, and the fitness center, will open in May. The second phase, which includes the second 150-room tower, is scheduled to open in July.
The two hotels are being created out of what had been the 364-room Wyndham hotel, which was sold last year by USBank to Princeton Three Hospitality Group LLC — a holding company led by Sunil Nayak, the CEO of a Monmouth Junction hotel operating firm called InnZen Hospitality.
At the time of the sale, Nayak announced his intentions to divide the property into two separate hotel operations. Hospitality operations on the site are now overseen by GF Hotels Management.
The hotel was originally built in 1985 as part of Merrill Lynch’s Scudders Mill Road campus as a private conference and corporate training center. The building was designed with several wings — a conference center wing, a hotel wing, and an executive suites wing.
The smaller executive suites wing was renovated into the Holiday Inn Express. A raised, covered walkway connects the Holiday Inn Express to the larger building, which will house the Crowne Plaza hotel.
USBank took ownership of the property in 2009 instead of foreclosing on a loan to owner Merritt Capital Investors of New Canaan, Connecticut, headed by Scott Toombs, who bought the center in 2004. Toombs was also the developer of Forrestal Village.
Toombs updated the hotel at a cost of $6 million, named it the Lakeside Princeton Conference Center, and turned it over to Paramount hotel management. Because of its unusual location on a corporate campus, marketing was a problem. Wyndham was brought in as its manager in 2008.
In other hotel business, the city-owned Trenton Marriott, which itself has struggled financially, may be re-branded as a Wyndham Hotel.
The hotel has had difficulty turning a profit with an average occupancy rate of about 50 percent. Trenton spends about $1.4 million a year to pay off the debt service for the hotel’s construction.
The Lafayette Yard Community Development Corp., the public board that oversees the 197-room hotel, has voted to pursue a contract with Parsippany-based Wyndham and Marshall Hotels to manage the facility’s operations.
The hotel would be rebranded under the Wyndham name under the deal, which would also require renovations to the 10-year-old facility.
The board began looking for a new company after Marriott and the Waterford Hotel Group — the current management company — said they would not renew their contracts when they expire in June.
According to board Vice President Joyce Kersey Wyndham has a “much stronger sales force that can get into the business and bring that business back into Trenton” and take advantage of business from state government.
Board member John Hatch said Wyndham has a better understanding of the Trenton market.
Members of the board are expected to appear before city council to report on the status of the hotel on Tuesday, March 5.
Holiday Inn Express Princeton Southeast, 870 Scudders Mill Road, Plainsboro 08536; 609-936-6600; fax, 609-936-6604. Dwight Goldstein, general manager. www.hiexpress.com.
Trenton Marriott Downtown (HMT), 1 West Lafayette Street, Trenton 08608; 609-421-4000; fax, 609-421-4002. Peter Weise, general manager. www.marriott.com.