Carmel Redevelopment Commission OKs $20K a month to attract hotel near City Center

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For more than a decade, City of Carmel officials have wanted a hotel built near the Palladium and Carmel City Center. It’s been part of Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard’s plan since the early days of City Center.

Now, the Carmel Redevelopment Commission has approved hiring hotel consultants — at a cost of $20,000 a month — with the goal of having an Autograph Collection hotel by Marriott built by 2020. The partnership doesn’t guarantee the hotel will come, and the city can cancel the contract if the consultant doesn’t live up to the agreement, but city officials don’t expect that to happen.

Brainard said there’s a need for a luxury hotel near Carmel’s redeveloped downtown, especially since there are so many new office buildings and corporate headquarters moving to the area.

“We expect visitors to the Palladium will take advantage of the hotel’s proximity but also businessmen and families on vacation,” he said. “I’ve seen these Autograph Collection hotels and they’re really nice.”

The CRC voted to approve a contract with Oklahoma-based Coury Hospitality to lure a 4½-star hotel with 100 to 120 rooms by 2020. There also is an $89,500 contract with MMGY Global to develop branding for the hotel, which is a 25 percent discount because of MMGY Global’s partnership with Coury.

In 2015, the CRC paid an architectural firm $25,000 to begin the design of a hotel. Although work from that contract is used in the newest set of plans, architectural drawings are no longer part of the plan. Pedcor has new designs for the project.

Brainard said the $20,000-a-month contract is justified because the hotel will support local businesses, whether it’s retail, restaurants or corporate offices.

A statement from the City of Carmel said paying consultants $20,000 a month is worth the cost since they will be “offering their executive-level expertise, willing to meet our timeframe, able to lead us through this process, and offering an immense amount of services – specifically delivering a franchise agreement for a Marriott Autograph collection.”

Brainard said the Autograph Collection is desired because it maintains the character of a boutique hotel while still being part of a major chain. He said many travelers like to stick to chains they know because of loyalty points and other factors, but he said the city didn’t want a hotel that looked like it could be found anywhere else. He said it’s important to keep it consistent with Carmel City Center’s architectural character.

“I really think this will be the best of both worlds,” Brainard said.

Brainard said in some cities Marriott has acquired historic hotels for their Autograph Collection brand and kept the look and even the name when operating the hotel. He said the new hotel in Carmel would likely have meeting space and possibly a restaurant or a nightclub owned by Michael Feinstein, who is the artistic director for the Center for the Performing Arts and a Grammy-nominated multi-platinum singer.

Plans for the hotel have varied through the years. Brainard mentioned it in his 2011 State of the City speech and at one point it was thought that Pedcor would construct the hotel but not operate it. In 2015, the CRC signed a $25,000 contract with David M. Schwarz Architects, which also designed the Palladium. That contract, which expired, was to give an idea of what the hotel could look like. The contract produced a larger hotel schematic that increased the project from a 40-room boutique hotel to a 120-room hotel, according to the city. Drawings from that contract were not released to the public because “their drawings do not represent the direction where we are headed … other than increasing the room count,” according to a statement from the city. The drawings and work done by Schwarz Architects was helpful in shaping the size of the hotel, according to the city.

Brainard said a new luxury hotel won’t hurt  existing nearby hotels in Carmel, many of which are located on Old Meridian Street. He said there’s already a need because Carmel’s hotels often get filled, and there will be even more development in the near future.

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