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Three metro Atlanta hotels to close, change course

Atlanta Journal-Constitution - August 2010, by Leon Stafford


Despite signs of recovery after two years of one of the industry's worst downturns, some metro Atlanta hotels will exit the market or make major changes to survive.

The Wyndham Garden Hotel and Baymont Inn and Suites on Piedmont Avenue are expected to close sometime during the middle of August while Marriott's Renaissance Hotel on West Peachtree Street has announced it is laying off 142 employees in anticipation of closing later this year.

Marriott is moving 75 percent of the laid-off Renaissance staff to other hotels in the chain, said spokesman Jeff Flaherty, and is working with management of the building to find jobs for the remaining 25 percent.

The moves come as the owners of metro hotels survey the rocky lodging landscape, which includes an oversupply of rooms, and are asking whether it's time to bump up their game or get out completely, industry experts say.

"The stress that the lodging industry has been experiencing for the last two years has been at record levels," said Mark Woodworth, president of PKF Hospitality Research. "As a consequence of that stress, more and more property owners are asking themselves the question, ‘Is operating this facility as a hotel really what produces the maximum economic return?'"

The Wyndham and the Baymont are being sold to Georgia State University for dormitories, the experts said, though the school would not confirm the transaction. The hotels sit next to the massive University Commons dorm the school erected on the old Beaudry Ford property at the corner of Ellis Street and Piedmont Avenue.

Leaders have floated the idea of changing or "re-flagging" the Renaissance to another brand, but nothing has been announced.

Paul Breslin, a managing partner at Panther Hospitality, said there could be many more changes to come. With hotels across the country in the same distress as the housing and building industries, every operator is trying to decide if he has the right location, the most compatible brand or is getting  the best return on investment.

It's happened before, he said. The Buckhead and Midtown W hotels were respectively a Crowne Plaza and a Sheraton just a few years ago. The Marriott Buckhead and the Doubletree on La Vista Road also replaced underperforming hotels.

"The buzz in the (lodging) industry is ‘opportunity,'" he said. "(Hotels) tend to go out of the system because they have outlived their life expectancy."