GREENVILLE, SC — Those who walked into the Hyatt Regency on Wednesday night got a glimpse of just how far the hotel has come.
Inside the Upstate’s largest ballroom, hundreds of people mixed and mingled, drinks in hand. The lights were dimmed. Music pulsed and Cirque du Soleil performers danced in the shadows. All of this to mark the end of a 15-month, multimillion dollar renovation of a flagship property in downtown Greenville.
“As we sit here on this beautiful stage, it’s hard to remember what the Hyatt used to be,” said D.J. Rama, president of JHM Hotels.
For the Hyatt has a storied past — one that Rama loves — and its heroes.
“Today’s celebration would not have been possible without the vision, tenacity and hard work of key community leaders Max Heller, Buck Mickel and Tommy Wyche,” Rama said.
Family members of those leaders, including Heller’s wife, Trude, were treated to front-row seats at the event and loud rounds of applause as photos flashed by of the Hyatt’s transformation from aging hotel in a limping downtown to a new center for business, food and culture.
In 1976, JHM Hotels, owned by the Rama family, moved to Greenville with the purchase of the Camelot Inn on Augusta Road. Today JHM has grown to include 42 properties worldwide, four of them in Greenville, but the Hyatt was the company’s first presence downtown.
Mayor Knox White spoke of how uncertain city leaders were when they learned that the Hyatt was going to change hands in 2010, from Hyatt Hotels Corp. and majority stakeholder, the Pritzker family.
“A great day came when we learned that the new owner of the Hyatt was going to be our own Rama family,” White said. “We knew at that point that it was going to be good.”
The transformation of the Hyatt began immediately.
In turning the Hyatt into a flagship property, JHM sought to create a place with a luxury feel and a Main Street focus. All the guest rooms were updated, and the ballroom got new customizable LED lighting, Rama said.
Special attention was given to the large atrium and outside courtyard in an effort to create lively spaces. And where once a disjointed seating area stood is today the Orb Lounge, set in the middle of the airy, open lobby.
The community feel carries outside to the newly minted NOMA Square.
The plaza already has begun hosting live entertainment and eventually will host the regular Slow Food Upstate Earth Market.
Overlooking the outdoor space is Roost Restaurant, which holds a special place for Rama, who remembers learning to eat with a knife and a fork at the old Provencia Restaurant.
“We hope today that the Hyatt is a beacon of light, welcoming guests and Greenvillians, a new place that feels like a home away from home,” he said.