Short-term Housing

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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,"

he says.

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:

Hilton Garden Inn. Negotiations are currently underway

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.

Marriott Towne Place Suites. An upstate New York developer,

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

home.

Embassy Suites. The plan calls for 154 rooms in South

Brunswick.

Sierra Suites. Another South Brunswick project, this one

would add 112 rooms to the supply.

Marriott Hotel and Conference Center. This 200-room project

is apparently underway in downtown Trenton — and will eliminate

Trenton’s distinction as the only state capital without a hotel.

Once the hotel boom comes to an end, there could be as 4,500

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 Courtyard by Marriott, 3815 Route 1,

Princeton 08540. Joseph P. Sirianni, general manager. 609-716-9100;

fax, 609-716-8745.

Extended Stay America, 4230 Route 1, South Brunswick

08852. Robert Kowal, general manager. 732-438-5010; fax, 732-438-5015.

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Short-term Housing

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.

Churchill Corporate Services, 29 Emmons Drive,

Princeton 08540. Arlene Goldberg, account executive. 609-514-1514;

fax, 609-514-1614. URL: http://www.churchillcorp.com.


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