As published in Toledo Business Journal - July 1, 2016
Renaissance Toledo Downtown Hotel lobby rendering
Toledo Business Journal met with the CEO of First Hospitality Group (FHG), Steve Schwartz, to view the large restoration project under way on the former Grand Plaza Hotel located on the river in downtown Toledo, and now owned by FHG. It will be called the Renaissance Toledo Downtown Hotel. This also provided an advance look at prototype guest rooms and meeting spaces and dining and entertainment areas now under construction at the 12-story facility.
“We are going to have a great showpiece in downtown Toledo. We are positioned to be a very upscale hotel” stated Schwartz. He explained that he expects the Renaissance Toledo Downtown Hotel to be rated 4-star plus. He also shared that the hotel is planning to support local companies with meeting facilities, guest accommodations, and other business functions.
Major changes are being made to the riverfront hotel that is now part of the Marriott Renaissance collection. Schwartz discussed Marriott’s Renaissance brand and some of its unique aspects. He explained that Renaissance hotels are a “lifestyle brand” that appeal to guests looking for “more experiential travel” with accommodations that are “unique and expressive.”
Marriott describes this group of hotels further, “Each Renaissance hotel offers a journey of discovery and inspiration, both on and off property.”
Schwartz shared some of the plans for the restored 240-room riverfront hotel aimed at making an impression on guests. “There is a priority emphasis on discovery as part of the Renaissance experience and there will be lots of surprises for guests to see,” Schwartz stated. He explained that an important theme that is guiding the restoration project involves glass and Toledo’s history and role as the glass capital.
Significant effort is going into building design changes in order to highlight glass elements of the structure. The former lobby has been redesigned in order to make it a more open space and to expand the glass skylighted area that was partially hidden by HVAC equipment and ceiling tiles in the former Grand Plaza Hotel.
A new riverfront restaurant is being constructed on the main level that will utilize large glass windows that run from the floor to the height of the tall ceiling. On the top floor, the entire 12,000 square foot space has been gutted and large glass windows will provide guests with views of the Maumee River on one side and downtown Toledo on the other side.
Rendering of the lobby studio area
This entertainment area of the hotel on the top floor, with its panoramic views, is being designed to leave an impression on guests, according to Schwartz. It is described as a rooftop lounge where patrons will enjoy craft cocktails and a curated wine/beer collection, along with a variety of small plate foods and flatbreads prepared in the rooftop’s wood-burning pizza oven.
This 12th floor rooftop area will be able to accommodate private events with headcounts from 10 to 100-plus. There are several spaces that will be available, including one room that features a private open-air terrace.
“We are also integrating glass pieces around the hotel to highlight this glass theme. This will include glass art for guests to see,” Schwartz stated. This Renaissance hotel experience will involve art and a gallery concept aimed at enhancing the guest experience. A lobby studio will provide guests with an experience focused on the culture and history of Toledo.
Part of the lifestyle concept and customer experience for the hotel will involve utilizing important aspects of Toledo’s history. There will be an area of the hotel that will let guests experience Toledo’s role with the M*A*S*H TV series. The role of automobiles and Jeep in particular, will also be used in the new hotel to give guests a flavor of Toledo’s position in this industry.
While much of the former hotel has been gutted and major construction is underway on the building, FHG is also working on the interior design of guest rooms and other spaces. “We are required by Marriott Renaissance to build model prototype rooms that must be reviewed and approved,” Schwartz explained. “We have constructed a couple of rooms that are now viewable, but we are still experimenting with colors, furnishings, and décor. The hotel will incorporate the color blue significantly in the interior design in order to highlight the role that water plays with the Maumee River and Lake Erie.” Guest rooms will also incorporate elements of Toledo’s history, culture, and surroundings as part of the Renaissance hotel experience.
FHG is also working to incorporate guest entertainment and activities into its concept. The new restaurant on the main floor and the rooftop lounge on the top floor will provide dining and entertainment options.
The hotel will include a fully-equipped 2,000 square foot fitness center with riverside views, which will be complimentary and available to guests only 24/7. The hotel will have bicycles available for guests to explore the downtown area and provide another exercise option. Plans are being made to utilize the hotel’s location on the water by offering cruises on the Maumee River.
FHG, a hotel property management firm, is headquartered in Chicago. The company owns and/or operates hotels across six major hotel chains, including Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt, and IHG. FHG has been in the Toledo area since 1999. It built a new Residence Inn in Maumee in 2008 and the company also manages the Holiday Inn in Maumee which offers guests a water park experience.