Canterbury to change name, close for 9-month renovation

Downtown’s historic Canterbury Hotel will close for a major renovation at the beginning of next year and reopen nine months later with a new name and international affiliation.

RockBridge, a hotel investment firm based in Columbus, Ohio, will invest about $9.5 million in a comprehensive redesign of the 12-story, 99-room hotel in 2014, according to Ted Stimson, vice president of RockBridge. The firm bought the hotel in June.

“Everything that a guest touches or sees will be brand new,” Stimson told IBJ on Tuesday. “Today’s business travelers want all the bells and whistles. … We’re trying to bring the hotel up to modern standards as much as we can.

“We’ll try to honor the historic nature of the hotel, but there are a lot of things where it’s just time to change,” Stimson said.

The renovation will include redesigning guest rooms, revamping elevators and mechanical systems, and completely reconfiguring the first and second floors. The work is expected to last about nine months, beginning in January but with no solid date yet for completion.

The hotel’s exterior is expected to remain essentially the same, with a few cosmetic touchups.

The structure dates back to 1928, when it opened as a 200-room hotel called the Lockerbie. Later named the Warren, it was purchased in 1983 by local businessmen and renovated as an intimate luxury hotel with its current name.

The downtown high-end market has become more crowded recently with the construction of the $100 million Conrad Indianapolis and the $450 million JW Marriott complex. The Alexander, a high-end boutique hotel property with 209 rooms, opened in January.

“You’ve had so many hotels open downtown with great quality offerings, and the Canterbury just couldn’t compete,” Stimson said. “This is what we do. We find undercapitalized hotels and fix them.”

Since 1992, RockBridge has invested nearly $3 billion in hotels across the country, according to its website.

One key element to RockBridge’s plan to revive the Canterbury’s relevance is to affiliate the hotel with Starwood Hotels & Resorts. It will adopt Starwood’s luxurious Le Meridien brand, and carry the full name Le Meridien Indianapolis Canterbury Hotel.

The value of the affiliation is the ability to connect with business travelers and vacationing guests who subscribe to Starwood’s rewards system, as well as the name recognition that comes from Starwood and the brand.

“Some business travelers—some of the road warriors out there—are Starwood guys, and they want their Starwood points,” Stimson said. “Some corporations have aligned with particular brands. A lot of companies can’t stay in the Canterbury right now, and that is a huge amount of business that the hotel is missing.”

The Canterbury Kitchen & Bar also will close during the renovation, Stimson said.

“With what we’re doing with the elevators and reconfiguration of space on the first and second floors, you’re just going to make people mad with the construction, and that doesn’t help anybody,” he said.

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