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These articles by Melinda Sherwood and Barbara Fox were published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on July 21,
1999. All rights reserved.
Stay with Us, or Us, or . .
Inns already line the Route 1 corridor like the casinos
on the Atlantic City shore, but a second wave in hotel development
has just begun: Two new hotels, Courtyard by Marriott and Extended
Stay America, have recently opened their doors, bringing the total
number of hotel/motel rooms in the area up to 3,930. And four more
new inns could join the mass between Trenton and South Brunswick within
the next year.
Despite an increasingly competitive environment, Joseph Sirianni,
general manager of the new Courtyard by Marriott on Mapleton Road,
on the site of the old Holiday Inn, says there is still a market for
hotels catering to the business traveler. "We never would have
opened up if we believed that the area was going to be saturated,"
The 153-room Courtyard is among a new generation of hotels setting
the standard for business travelers, offering high tech quarters fitted
to the yuppie lifestyle without hotel flourishes like four-star restaurants
and gift shops. Courtyard rooms, for example, come equipped with a
second phone line and dataport for PCs. Guests have free access to
the exercise room, indoor pool and jacuzzi. At $124 a night, the Courtyard
costs roughly $50 more than low-end motels, and $50 less than a luxury
hotel room. "I don’t believe there are a lot in this area that
are cheaper," Sirianni says. "The McIntosh is cheaper, but
that’s more of a motel type thing."
This is Sirianni’s first time running a franchise of a major hotel
chain. In his former life, he was a chef. He earned an associates
degree at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, Class of
1979, before joining the family business, Sirianni’s Friendly Cafe,
in Long Branch. In 1989, he became a chef at the Marriott Marquis
in Manhattan and gradually started to cross-train, moving from kitchen
to lobby regularly. Now he reserves cooking for his wife and two children
in Long Branch.
Under Sirianni’s reign, the Courtyard has maintained a 60 percent
occupancy in its first month, with most clients staying Monday through
Wednesday. "It doesn’t really sound that good," says Sirianni,
"but it’s good considering it’s been open less than three weeks."
Eventually he expects occupancy in the 80 percent range (http://www.courtyard.com).
Hearty competition is already in place, however. Although it’s geared
towards long-term travelers, Extended Stay America, which just opened
on Route 1 North above Novotel, is starting to look like one of the
best deals in town, even for overnight business stays. At only $74
a night (or about $51 a night if you book for more than five nights),
each room has a kitchenette, fully-loaded with dishes, pots and pans,
as well as an extra phone line and dataport for PCs. Guests also have
access to laundry facilities and, perhaps in the near future, passes
to the nearby Gold’s Gym.
Only two of Extended Stay’s four floors are ready for occupancy, but
already the hotel has been booked solid. The facility will have 129
rooms and "I can’t open rooms fast enough," says Robert Kowal,
general manager of Extended Stay, and former assistant general manager
at the Holiday Inn in Jamesburg. "We’re the first hotel of our
type," he says. "We’re trying to appeal to business travelers
for the value of staying about a week, and we have the best prices
in the area." The price for a full week is roughly $380 (http://www.extstay.com).
Meanwhile the planning board pipelines are filling with still more
hotel projects. Among them:
for the building of a 151-room Hilton Garden Inn, a franchise of Hilton
Hotels, reportedly between the Princeton BMW dealership and the Princeton
Service Center on Route 1 north. The Hilton Garden Inn concept offers
that familiar "residential atmosphere with a strong business orientation,"
according to a company fact sheet.
Hilton Garden Inns are designed with office plug-ins and a desk, as
well as a microwave oven, coffee maker, and refrigerator. Guests have
access to a business center with computer, photocopier, and fax, an
exercise room, spa, swimming pool, a casual restaurant, and a retail
market so that guests may buy microwavable items and heat them up
in their rooms — just like a night at home. Rates are expected
to be in the $75 to $95 range.
Home Away From Home, expects to start construction this fall of a
143-room hotel near Quaker Bride Mall, behind the proposed General
Motors auto mall at Route 1 and Grovers Mill Road. The Marriott Towne
Place concept is intended to appeal to extended stay visitors and
families needing interim housing while waiting to move into a new
would add 112 rooms to the supply.
is apparently underway in downtown Trenton — and will eliminate
Trenton’s distinction as the only state capital without a hotel.
rooms between Lawrenceville and South Brunswick. Although the numbers
suggest market saturation, the swell in hotel development tells a
different story: a room is never just a room.
Princeton 08540. Joseph P. Sirianni, general manager. 609-716-9100;
08852. Robert Kowal, general manager. 732-438-5010; fax, 732-438-5015.
To measure whether Central Jersey really does need more
hotels catering to long-term stay business travelers, look at the
short-term apartment business. It’s flourishing. Arlene Goldberg and
Darlene DeLorenzo have opened showroom number six for Churchill Corporate
Services at Princeton Commerce Center. With a headquarters in Somerset
and a warehouse in Hawthorn, Churchill manages 800 rentals in the
New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut area. "We grab up leases
and assume the liability for filling them," says Goldberg.
Goldberg and DeLorenzo worked for the Princeton office of a furniture
rental company before joining Churchill, and they have added 50 short-term
rentals to Churchill’s roster. Churchill rents furniture but it also
provides housing in condos, townhouses, and apartments. "All they
have to do is get a key and bring in their clothes," says Goldberg.
"We do soup to nuts. We sign the leases in our name. We make the
beds and set up the kitchen, from dishes to potato peeler."
In this real estate market, short-term rentals are at a premium. "The
market has changed dramatically. There is no availability," says
Goldberg. She sees an increased need for short-term housing particularly
for pharmaceutical executives. "Realtors and property management
companies need our services."
Nick Lambiase, property manager of Fresh Ponds, a corporate apartment
community in Dayton, says the market is indeed tight, and that he
has no openings until September.
Corporate rentals offer a homier and less expensive alternative to
the hotels, says Goldberg, citing typical hotel rates of $100 per
night or $3,000 per month versus a typical corporate apartment for
$2,000 with a complete kitchen "and they are living a normal lifestyle."
With the lack of a full-size kitchen as an excuse, hotel residents
probably bill their company an additional per diem for dinners.
Churchill’s bill is slightly more than Fresh Ponds, which rents a
furnished two-bedroom, 1 1/2 bath apartment for $2,095 to $2,595 on
a three-month lease. But Churchill lets you pick out new or just re-upholstered
furniture rather than take what’s there, and the cost is scalable.
For instance, you can bring or buy your own pictures or rent wall
decor for $100 to $150 per month (http://www.churchillcorp.com).
Churchill’s tenants also have the advantage of living
side by side with long-term residents in their choice of communities.
A family trying to decide where to locate permanently can try out
a particular school system. "Thirty percent of our clients have
children and want to be in — for instance — Plainsboro, North
Brunswick, West Windsor, Hillsborough, or Belle Mead," says Goldberg.
A family that is "between houses" (their house is sold but
their new house is not ready, a common dilemma today) can conveniently
stay in the school system. "When the sellers have no place to
go, it is cheaper and safer to put stuff in storage than to move it
twice," says Goldberg.
"We also have a number of international executives. We find out
their budget and priorities and what their taste is — traditional,
contemporary, light or dark, plus we take into consideration the actual
property they are moving into. Within one and a half hours, you can
have a beautiful home."
Those who can visit the showroom can make more specific choices. One
corporate executive brought a video camera and took pictures of the
showroom so his wife could do the choosing. Most of the furniture
is new but Churchill also has upholsterers and refinishers on staff.
Goldberg, a Brooklyn native, was advertising manager for Preview Productions
in Hightstown for eight years and has worked in the furniture rental
business since 1991. Her daughter was a rental agent in Plainsboro
and has just been hired by Churchill, and her son is working at the
Hyatt while going to Mercer County College. DeLorenzo, a sales associate,
grew up in Jamesburg and worked for J&J Dental Products and in the
garment industry before joining Goldberg in the furniture business.
A perk of this business can be celebrity contact. When the film crew
for the movie IQ came to town five years ago, Goldberg had a brief
brush with Hollywood fame. She "did" all of the crew’s furniture
for its temporary office on Alexander Road plus the house for Frank
Capra III on Route 206, plus temporary furniture for the actual residents
of Albert Einstein’s real home on Mercer Street. The company filmed
the movie in the look-alike house next door to the real one, but to
make it more authentic, it borrowed the furniture that Einstein had
used. Goldberg’s job was to provide substitute furniture to the tenants.
"They were given carte blanche to come into the showroom to fill
their house until the filming was over." Her big disappointment:
she did not get to supply furniture to Meg Ryan.
Princeton 08540. Arlene Goldberg, account executive. 609-514-1514;
fax, 609-514-1614. URL: http://www.churchillcorp.com.
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