The new Hyatt Place, which will stretch nine stories high in the Old Market, and two other proposed hotels are expected to boost the number of downtown hotel rooms beyond the 3,000 mark in a few years — a 75 percent jump from 2007.
While local officials say there is no magic figure or goal, they consider growth of the hotel industry since 2007 to be positive.
It is a sign of investment in Omaha and a testament to the city's relatively healthy economic climate, said Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle.
It's a cushion, said Dana Markel of the Omaha Convention & Visitors Bureau, that allows the city to take on more high-profile events such as this month's College World Series and Olympic Swim Trials.
Still, Markel and others caution that the increase also comes with stepped up responsibility for city leaders and the hotel and entertainment industries to bring a steady flow into those rooms.
“We need to be sure we are getting our message out that Omaha is a place worth visiting so we can grow the demand to fill this new supply,” Markel said.
The remarks come as Hyatt corporate officials came to Omaha for a ceremonial groundbreaking today of the 159-room Hyatt Place on the northwest corner of 12th and Jackson Streets.
The site had been targeted for a hotel since 2007, when a developer proposed a Marriott Residence Inn. That project languished through the recession until Hyatt stepped in last summer with its plan.
Kevin Schramm, regional vice president of real estate and development for Hyatt Hotels Corp., said in an interview that he'd been eyeing the local market since he visited in 2006. The hotel, to be owned and operated by Hyatt, is the company's first in the state and will create about 50 jobs.
“We believe strongly enough in Omaha to invest $27 million of our capital,” Schramm said of the project that will benefit from $3.1 million in city-authorized property tax incentives.
Hyatt's select-service hotel — which will compete against the likes of the Hilton Garden Inn and Courtyard by Marriott for business travelers and local visitors — adds to the growing diversity of downtown lodging.
Each hotel type targets a certain clientele, Markel said, but boosts Omaha's overall appeal as a destination place.
The 600-room Hilton Omaha, for example, is suited for conventiongoers, as it is nearest the CenturyLink Center Omaha's meeting rooms and includes a full range of services, such as a restaurant and lounge.
Another full-service hotel, a Marriott Hotel, is proposed for 10th Street and Capitol Avenue. City planner Bridget Hadley said the additional 350 rooms in that project, still in early planning stages, would help fulfill the city master plan's goal for convention rooms in the downtown “event district.”
Beyond that event district abutting TD Ameritrade Park and the CenturyLink Center, Hadley said, there is no target number for hotel rooms.
Meanwhile, recent hotel growth in the broader downtown area has stepped up competition and efforts to stand out.
The Doubletree Hotel at 16th and Dodge Streets, for example, has just completed a $20 million renovation and formed a “green team” to develop innovative and environmentally-friendly features.
Stephan Meier, general manager, said the hotel now offers a bicycle checkout station in its lobby so patrons can save on fuel and pedal to nearby restaurants or shops. It also banned Styrofoam, added recycling bins in guest rooms, changed to greener light bulbs and more.
The shift has won over new clients, Meier said, and has helped in recruiting a top staff.
Meier said the extra hotel rooms create even greater need for a stronger alliance among the city, hotels and conventions bureau.
“It's a bit of a mixed bag,” said Meier. “On the one hand, our city needs more hotel rooms. At the same time, you need to be able to fill them. It's not just, ‘Build and they will come.'”
Suttle said he accepts the challenge, and expects his administration, the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce and other entities to continue to work together to feed the hotel industry.
When the Hyatt is completed in 2014, downtown will have 2,704 rooms, or a 54 percent increase from 2007, according to the Convention & Visitors Bureau. That number includes the 152-room Residence Inn by Marriott, which is expected to be completed at 15th and Dodge Streets in 2013.
By including the still-in-the-planning-stages Marriott Hotel at 10th Street and Capitol Avenue, the future number rises to 3,054, or a 75 percent increase.
Of course, that number represents only a slice of the nearly 13,400 hotel rooms in the larger Omaha metropolitan area of Douglas, Sarpy and Pottawattamie Counties. That metro-area hotel capacity since 2007 increased by 23 percent, from 10,862 to 13,392, the visitors bureau numbers show.
Increased supply also has led to some empty rooms. Occupancy rates last year in Douglas, Sarpy and Pottawattamie were on average 55 percent, 52 percent and 64 percent, respectively.
There are peaks and valleys, depending on what is going on, Markel said. The College World Series and Berkshire Hathaway's annual meeting typically are high points, she said, when downtown hotel occupancy rates reach around 90 percent.
Suttle sees the Hyatt as a step to other development downtown. He said it puts a hotel at the west end of the Old Market to match one at the east end.
“That is going to spark folks to come in and develop other blocks,” the mayor said. “It's a good deal for everybody.”
Contact the writer:
Hotels east of Interstate 480 to the Missouri River, with the number of rooms currently:
Courtyard by Marriott 181
Doubletree Hotel 414
Econo Lodge 48
Embassy Suites 249
Fairfield Inn & Suites 113
Hampton Inn & Suites 139
Hilton Garden Inn 178
Hilton Omaha 600
Holiday Inn 114
Homewood Suites by Hilton 123
Hotel Deco XV 89
Magnolia Hotel 145