Carmel hires consultants in effort to land luxury hotel brand by Marriott

Carmel is hoping to bring a unique high-end hotel brand by Marriott to its City Center development.

The Carmel Redevelopment Commission on Wednesday approved the hiring of hotel consultants to help it land an Autograph Collection hotel. The consultants will offer city planners advice on hotel design, branding and management.

Marriott's Autograph Collection, launched in 2010, has more more than 65 U.S. and 50 international locations, but none in Indiana. Each property features a different design and theme.

The nearest Autograph Collection properties to Indianapolis are in Chicago and Columbus, Ohio. Weekend room rates at the Columbus hotel are around $300 per night.

“Think of us as a guide to the extraordinary. A gateway to the unconventional. A beacon of good taste,” a description on the Autograph Collection’s website reads.

CRC Executive Director Corrie Meyer said the Carmel hotel could have 100 to 120 rooms and is expected to achieve a 4.5-star rating. It would be built between the Monon Trail and Veterans Way, just south of City Center Drive.

To assist with the project, the CRC agreed to pay Tulsa, Oklahoma-based Coury Hospitality a recurring monthly stipend of $20,000 for hotel management consulting services.

“We need them to lead and guide us through this process,” Meyer said, acknowledging that the CRC and City Center developer Pedcor Cos. do not have expertise in hotel development.

She said the city spoke to Marriott and the hotel company recommended hiring Coury Hospitality.

The contract can be terminated with 15 days notice, but if the city initiates the termination, a fee would be imposed. The amount of the fee would vary depending on how long the agreement in place.

The hotel would use Marriott’s reservation system, and a franchise fee would apply.

Meyer said the cost of the hotel, funding for it and who would eventually own it are undetermined at this point.

“We just are not there with how it’s going to be structured,” Meyer said.

Coury Hospitality is expected to work with the city through construction and help establish a management team. The hotel could open in 2020.

The CRC also hired Kansas City, Missouri-based travel and hospitality marketing firm MMGY Global to development the brand for the hotel since each property in the Autograph Collection is unique and has its own name. The firm will be paid a flat fee of $89,500.

“So what is Carmel’s autograph?” Meyer said. “That's what this branding expert will do.”

It’s the second time Carmel has sought assistance from private companies for the long-anticipated hotel project.

In August 2015, the CRC hired Washington, D.C.-based David M. Schwarz Architects Inc. to create initial designs for a hotel and possibly a conference center.

“He came up with how we could get more rooms on the site,” Meyer said.

The hotel has been in the master plan for City Center for years, but the number of rooms and style of hotel has varied. Most recently, the city wanted a 40-room boutique hotel, but has now determined a larger footprint could be successful. And the conference center is no longer included in the plans.

The $25,000 contract with David M. Schwarz Architects, which also designed the Palladium, has ended, according to Meyer.

“It comes down to having experts around the table,” Meyer said. “We want to make sure we have the right team built.”

Some of the earliest designs for City Center called for a four-star, $32 million hotel with 160 to 200 rooms. Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard announced plans for the luxury hotel in his State of the City address in October 2011.

Despite the delays, city leaders are still hoping to move forward with a hotel project.

“I’m a supporter of the hotel and think it’s actually a key component to the overall viability to attracting corporate headquarters,” CRC and City Council member Jeff Worrell said.

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