Raleigh is attracting more hotels, but are they the right ones?

A rendering of a potential Westin Hotel in Brier Creek Town Center.
A rendering of a potential Westin Hotel in Brier Creek Town Center. City of Raleigh

From downtown Raleigh to the Beltline, a string of developers has submitted plans in recent weeks for large hotel projects.

It’s a continuing trend for the city, which has steadily been creating a more diverse offering of lodging options in the past few years.

Some of the newest proposed hotels include:

  • A nine-story hotel near Nash Square at the southwest corner of West Martin and South Dawson streets. The plans, submitted by the Raymond Group of Wisconsin, call for a 190-room hotel that would have a restaurant on the ground floor. The brand of the potential hotel is still unknown.
  • An 18-story Westin Hotel adjacent to Crabtree Valley Mall at 4501 Creedmoor Road. The proposed 252-room hotel, submitted by Shamin Hotels out of Chester, Virginia, would have a rooftop bar, a ballroom and meeting space, as well as a full-service restaurant.
  • Another Westin Hotel, this time at Brier Creek Town Center at Arco Corporate Drive and Macaw Street. The proposed 228-room, 10-story hotel was submitted by hotel developer CMC Hotels.

Yet, for all of the hotels being built, some are concerned that the city isn’t attracting the right kind of hotel.

“If you look at where they are located, none are within walking distance of the convention center,” Dennis Edwards, president and CEO of the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau, said in an interview.

Walking distance from hotels is essential to groups planning large-scale conventions, Edwards said, noting that his organization wants the city to study what sites near the convention center might be attractive for hotel developers.

Edwards cited research from real estate services firm JLL that found interest declines in a destination by more than 70 percent if the hotels are not attached or adjacent to a convention center.

The visitors bureau considers walking distance as two blocks away or closer. Currently, Raleigh has three hotels that fit that criteria — Raleigh Marriott City Center, Residence Inn Downtown and Sheraton Raleigh — which total 928 rooms, according to Jessica Holt, spokeswoman for the bureau.

“They don’t want to shuttle people (because) they don’t have to that in other (cities),” he said, naming Nashville, Baltimore and Louisville, Kentucky as competitors that are building lots of hotels. “We still need hotels, especially full-service ones, and at this point, we’ll take even limited-service hotels” within walking distance.

The convention and visitors bureau isn’t the only one noting the need.

Bill King, who runs economic development and planning for the Downtown Raleigh Alliance, said another 400-room hotel near the convention center would be ideal.

“We are glad to see new hotel projects moving forward, which can help satisfy growing business, convention and tourism travel to downtown and bring new types of hotels into the market,” King said. “Ultimately, to elevate the convention center into competing for even larger events and to satisfy business travel for our growing employment base, we would like to also see a large headquarters hotel of 400-plus rooms come into downtown.”

That is not to say the hotels being added are useless. On the contrary, they are also important, especially ones that offer conference space for smaller gatherings, like the Westin hotels would likely have, Edwards said.

Tara Robbins, who runs the Midtown Raleigh Alliance, said the area around the Beltline has seen strong performance from its hotels, especially as the number of corporations located there has grown.

A number of boutique hotels have been built in that part of town in recent years, and older hotels — like the Renaissance Hotel and Hilton Hotel — have done renovations, she said. And “I’m sure the Westin will do well,” she added.

“Our commercial activity is very vibrant” and it’s important “to have a plethora of hospitality options in a walkable area where (travelers) appointments are,” Robbins said. “I think if (the hotels) weren’t successful in Midtown, they wouldn’t continue to build them.”

The North Hills area is also set to add another hotel in the future, with Mariott planning to put a 193-room hotel on 10 floors of the planned 33-story Walter Tower.

Robbins also noted that the Midtown hotels do very well when conventions come to Raleigh because “of the shortage of rooms downtown” and the fact that “Midtown has concentrated retail and dining.”

The city also seems to be increasing its stock of smaller boutique hotels — as with the proposed rehab of Montfort Hall and the Gables Motor Lodge — which are popular for leisure tourists.

“Honestly, we are definitely filling some voids that we have countywide, which is great,” Edwards said. “But pertaining to the convention center, it is still an area that is glaringly missing.”

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