The 575-room Westin Indianapolis hotel downtown is in the early stages of a massive renovation, with plans to overhaul most of the property’s interior by the end of the year—down to the front door.
The upgrades will include guest rooms, the hotel’s fitness center, restaurant areas, meeting and event spaces and back-of-house functions. The renovation is rolling out in multiple phases.
The first phase has been under way since last year and is expected to be completed by early this summer, general manager Andy Seal told IBJ this week.
The renovations follow the hotel’s acquisition by Atlanta-based KSL Capital Partners, which quietly bought the property for $118.3 million in August 2019. Davidson Hospitality Group, a subsidiary of KSL, now manages the property.
Whenever a property is purchased, Seal said, the hotel brand conducts what’s called a “product improvement plan” to ensure the hotel meets its standards. Oftentimes, the plans call for renovations that allow the property to retain the rights to the hotel name.
“I’m pleased to [share] that once we received that plan, our ownership decided to do a whole heck of a lot more than what was required—really, really extensive,” Seal said.
Seal declined to share exactly how much is being spent on the project, but Westin representatives said it was at least $10 million. That would be consistent with the renovation of the 650-room Indianapolis Marriott Downtown, located directly west of the Westin, which was estimated by its owners to cost “tens of millions” in 2016.
Work on the Westin began last September and is expected to be completed ahead of the 2022 College Football Playoff National Championship game in early January.
The project will bring new fixtures, neutral colors and a more modern feel for the hotel, Seal said. The last renovation to the circa-1989 building was completed in 2014, but it was not nearly as extensive as this project is expected to be.
Work on the renovations started amid a lull in occupancy brought on by the pandemic.
“There’s nothing good [that’s come] out of the pandemic, but if I had to try to find something good, it would be that our occupancy has been so low, we’ve been able to kind of charge ahead as quickly as we can to get things renovated,” Seal said.
Unlike some other downtown properties, the Westin remained open during the pandemic despite record-low occupancies, which sometimes hovered around 3% during the week.
But the hotel also saw a major spike in business in March with the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, hosting 12 teams as part of the NCAA’s controlled environment. Seal declined to share how much revenue that generated for the hotel, other than to say it was “extremely financially profitable.”
The first phase of the comprehensive renovation includes a redesign and reconfiguration of the lobby area, along with an overhaul to the hotel’s 39,000 square feet of meeting and event space, adding boardrooms and updating its ballroom. New escalators have already been installed, and new elevators are expected over the next several months.
A new restaurant called Ten Hands Social Bar & Eatery—which will specialize in mid- to upper-scale American comfort food like cheeseburgers, steaks and pizzas—is set to open in May, ahead of the Indianapolis 500.
Ten Hands is expected to feature what Seal called “the biggest television in the city,” with 27 flatscreens hung to create a 36-foot-wide by nearly 7-foot-tall TV. The Westin is also adding Ten Hands Market, a market-style carryout eatery, which will offer grab-and-go options for guests looking to get a quick bite.
The second phase of the project is expected to be completed in September, with the addition of a new 3,500-square-foot event space called Capitol Overlook replacing the former Shula’s Steakhouse, which closed in early 2019 when its lease expired. The space, featuring sweeping views of downtown, will be available for rent for wedding ceremonies and receptions, as well as other events.
A new concierge lounge is also planned in the second phase, as is the relocation and expansion of the hotel’s fitness center, which will replace the pool that hasn’t been used since the pandemic began.
Seal said many hotels are removing their pools during upgrades. The Westin follows the downtown Marriott and the JW Marriott, both of which removed their pools in recent years.
The existing fitness center will be replaced with a recreational room that can be rented out—ideally for weddings, Seal said. The space will including video games and pool tables.
Room renovations will begin in June and run through mid-December, replacing carpeting, some fixtures and beds. All the guest bathrooms will be expanded in size, with king rooms seeing their bathtubs replaced with walk-in showers. About 70% of the hotel’s bedrooms will see a boost in overall size.
King rooms will also see their sofa sleepers replaced with larger units, and two-bed rooms will get a bump in bed size, from doubles to queens. Each suite will be completely revamped so they are individually designed and furnished, said Seal.
Even the front door to the building—which has long been a heavy, brass door—is being replaced. The main entrance to the property will be updated with a new outdoor patio, full landscaping and aesthetic changes to the porte-cochère.
To complement the aesthetic changes, Seal said, various back-of-house updates are also under way, including the replacement of all HVAC units and refrigeration racks, and updates to a litany of thermostats in meeting rooms and other spaces throughout the building.
He said the Westin hopes to host more major galas and other events throughout the year in its updated meeting spaces and ballroom.
Davidson, which has its own internal restaurant consulting group, hired Ai3 for the restaurant design. C+TC Design Studio designed the updated lobbies, meeting spaces and guest rooms. Both firms are based in Atlanta.
Correction: This story and headline have been corrected to reflect that the estimated cost of the Westin hotel’s renovation is at least $10 million (not “10 figures,” as it appeared in the earlier version). You can see other corrections here.