Clarion Hotel converting to Hilton Garden Inn/Home2 Suites, adding jobs

07/01/2014 7:23 PM

07/02/2014 12:51 AM

The historic Clarion Hotel Downtown will change its brand, add capacity and undergo a facelift, its owners announced Tuesday.

The hotel, located at 1615 Gervais St., will convert to a Hilton Garden Inn/Home2 Suites and increase its lodging capacity to 230 rooms, owner Rick Patel said in morning news conference. The hotel also will add meeting space and get a facelift for a more modern look.

Staff at the hotel will double to 150 employees, officials said, with opening day planned in January 2016.

“We have enjoyed doing business in Columbia since 1987, bringing our expertise in the hospitality industry to the city,” said Patel, Sejwad Hospitality owner, in a statement released Tuesday. “We strive for quality and consistency in all our endeavors and look forward to continuing to deliver the cutting edge service that will take our city to the next level.”

When finished, the Hilton Garden Inn/Home2 Suites will be the city’s first dual-branded facility, hotel officials said. Improvements will include a saline-based swimming pool, recycling stations throughout the hotel and in each room, and a full-service hotel restaurant that serves Starbucks coffee.

The hotel building served as General William Sherman’s headquarters during the Civil War and is designated by a historic marker to that effect, hotel owners said. However, it is not the first time the location has accommodated a Hilton hotel. Records say the Hilton namesake purchased, owned and operated the property in 1973, and was responsible for adding the existing tower addition before it reopened in 1975, owners said.

“This project represents more than just new buildings and new jobs,” Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin said in the press release. “It represents a movement that over the past three years alone, has secured well over $800 million in new downtown investment.”

“That’s more than revitalization; it’s a renaissance, and we couldn’t be more excited,” Benjamin said.

Sejwad Hospitality is a family-owned company that owns and operates several hotels in the Columbia area, bearing such brand names as Hilton, Starwood, Intercontinental, Choice and Wyndham. The company is headquartered in Columbia and was founded in 1977.

City officials hailed Tuesday’s announcement as good for the city.

“This announcement marks another significant step in the transformation of our city,” said Columbia city manager Teresa Wilson. “Economic development is a major component in building a strong and viable community for our citizens and local business owners.

“As the City of Columbia grows, we welcome projects such as this that will offer quality accommodations and event venues for both residents and tourists.”

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