The 364-room Wyndham Princeton Forrestal Hotel and Conference Center has been sold by USBank to a company led by Sunil Nayak — the CEO of a Monmouth Junction hotel owner and operating firm called InnZen Hospitality.
Nayak’s newly-formed holding company, Princeton Three Hospitality Group LLC, plans to divide the property into two separate operations — a Holiday Inn Express and a Crowne Plaza hotel with a conference center.
According to Lester Varga, Plainsboro director of planning and zoning, the township planning board was expected to consider the first step in the process of dividing the site — an application for signage for the Holiday Inn Express on Tuesday, September 18.
Varga said the hotel was originally built in 1985 as part of Merrill Lynch’s Scudders Mill Road campus. “It wasn’t even a private hotel, it was a private conference and corporate training center, so it had a couple of different wings — a conference center wing, a hotel wing, and an executive suites wing. The executive suites wing is going to be a Holiday Inn Express,” Varga said.
A raised, covered walkway connects the future Holiday Inn Express and the main body of the current Wyndham Hotel, which will eventually become the Crowne Plaza hotel.
Varga pointed out that Holiday Inn is a part of the Crowne Plaza brand.
“It’s not like two separate and competing hotels will chop the building in half,” said Varga. “For business reasons the Crowne Plaza brand decided to make part of the building a Holiday Inn Express. Corresponding to that they need some signage to distinguish it from other buildings on the campus.”
He said that the township has not yet received plans for any changes other than signage.
US Bank took ownership of the property in 2009 instead of foreclosing on a loan to owner Merritt Capital Investors of New Canaan, Connecticut. Merritt is headed by Scott Toombs, who bought the center in 2004.
Toombs was not new to the Princeton development scene — he was behind the construction of Princeton Forrestal Village in 1986 as a mixed use office and upscale retail center. When the market did not respond to the concept the Village reverted to the Bank of New York in 1991, the year that Toombs founded Merrit.
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.