Staff Reports

Columbus will have a Holiday Inn hotel for the first time since 2012 when a renovated and expanded west-side hotel opens in a year.

Dora Hotel Company of Fishers will invest $9.75 million in the Holiday Inn Columbus, scheduled to open in August 2018, to replace the existing Comfort Inn & Suites.

That investment is more than twice this year’s $3.8 million assessed value for Comfort Inn & Suites.

Dora is working with InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), which controls and awards Holiday Inn franchises, on the expansion and renovation project.

“We’ve partnered with IHG in Columbus before when we built Hotel Indigo, one of the coolest hotels in the Midwest,” said Tim Dora, president of Dora Hotel Company, a hotel development and management firm. “We are excited to do so again.”

In February 2008, the $8 million Hotel Indigo — a four-story, 85-room property at 400 Brown St. — opened in downtown Columbus.

A decade later, the renovated and expanded Holiday Inn will open at 2485 W. Jonathan Moore Pike, about 2 miles away, and will contain a full-service restaurant, bar and 1,632 square feet of banquet space. Of its 100 planned guest rooms, which is 25 more than it currently has, 15 will be suites, the company said.

“We want it to be first class and be on the same level as the Hotel Indigo,” Dora said.

Guest rooms will have a modernized urban look, using calming earth tones with pops of color, the company said.

“It’ll be very contemporary,” Dora said. “We want this to be architecturally very interesting.”

One-third more guest rooms will be added by constructing a third floor to the existing two-story wing, making the entire hotel three stories tall.

Inside the new atrium entrance, a bar will be located on the second floor above the front desk. A restaurant with a full kitchen will be located on the second floor of the existing building, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner — and providing room service for guests. In contrast, the Comfort Inn has been a limited-service hotel with only a breakfast area for dining.

Dora said he began considering the expansion about two years ago when he hired engineers to examine old drawings of the Comfort Inn building and looked below the footings to see if it could support a third floor, Dora said. It could, said Dora, who was also in talks with InterContinental Hotels Group about expanding the hotel and running it as a Holiday Inn.

Dora said the two-story wing of the Comfort Inn was outdated. However, Dora said he envisions the expanded, renovated and rebranded Holiday Inn will be viable for the next 40 to 50 years — located at the front door to Columbus.

InterContinental oversees 12 lodging brands, with 5,000 hotels located in 100 counties around the world. Besides Holiday Inn and Hotel Indigo, its brands include Crowne Plaza Hotels, Staybridge Suites and Candlewood Suites.

Dora also owns Charwood Corporate Suites at 2000 Charwood Drive in Columbus.

But the Holiday Inn Columbus will be different from all of them, the owner said.

“You won’t see anything like it anywhere,” Dora said. “It has some individual character that makes it interesting and more fun.”

The Holiday Inn’s amenities will be geared to the contemporary traveler and will include a first-floor business center, complimentary Wi-Fi, a state-of-the-art fitness room, conversational seating areas with charging stations, and a mini-market off the lobby, Dora Hotel regional manager Cindy Waddle said.

“Each room will have a welcome nook upon entry, similar to a mudroom, where guests can hang their coats and purses, set down their keys, and charge all of their devices,” she said.

Furniture design will be very contemporary, Dora said. And most rooms will just have showers, with bathtubs in only a few queen-sized-bed rooms.

Mini-refrigerators, microwaves and Keurig coffee-makers will also be in every room, along with moveable furniture which allows guests to make the space fit their individual needs, she said.

“Guests and locals alike are going to absolutely love the Holiday Inn,” Dora said.

The Holiday Inn will also do its part to go green by incorporating a renewable energy component.

At least 10 percent of the hotel’s energy consumption will be generated by a system of solar panels that will cover most of the roof, becoming the first of 18 Dora-owned hotels designed to generate energy from a renewable source, Dora said.

Dora’s Comfort Inn franchise expires today, when the hotel was originally scheduled to close for roughly a year during the construction period. But the sudden shutdown of the nearby Clarion Hotel and Conference Center on July 10 caused a pivot in the schedule, the company said. To accommodate the need for additional rooms during a busy August in Columbus, the ownership group two weeks ago decided to delay the closing date by one month.

“The timing of the Clarion’s closing wasn’t ideal,” Dora Hotel Company vice president Ashley Dora said. “With an increased demand in rooms due to Exhibit Columbus and an influx of sports tourism events during the summer months, we decided to continue operating as an independent hotel through the month of August in order to help meet the demands of tourism in Bartholomew County.”

The future Holiday Inn will be temporarily called the Columbus Inn without a franchise affiliation, and bookings will be done manually, Tim Dora said. On Tuesday, two banners will be displayed reading “Columbus Hotel Open” over the existing Comfort Inn signage, Waddle said.

A new Fairfield by Marriott will open in November a block from the new Holiday Inn site, adding another 96 rooms to the Columbus area lodging capacity. But that number won’t totally make up for loss of Clarion’s 253 guest rooms, which represented one-sixth of the entire Columbus area hospitality room inventory.

The existing Comfort Inn & Suites will close Sept. 1 to begin its renovation, but will feature an expanded staff upon reopening as the Holiday Inn. Employees will have the opportunity to work at nearby sister properties Hotel Indigo and Charwood Corporate Suites during construction, Waddle said. Guests hoping to stay at the Comfort Inn & Suites past Sept. 1 will be directed to these two neighboring hotels, Waddle said.

Dora said he had been interested in buying the Clarion himself to redevelop it as a hotel, and had two representatives at the July sheriff’s foreclosure auction who were prepared to bid on it.

“We caught wind that the hospital was interested in it,” Tim Dora said, and he decided against running up the price in a bidding war with Columbus Regional Health.

So instead, his focus for now will be across the street from the future medical center site.

“In the hotel business, if you walk in the front door and your first impression is ‘Wow, I didn’t expect this,’ then I’ve got you in a positive mental state,” which is the starting point of a pleasurable experience, Dora said.

That’s how he is approaching the Holiday Inn — with a few strategies picked up from opening of the Hotel Indigo five year ago, Dora said.

Making a good impression became a key strategy in development of that hotel, where Dora said many Cummins Inc. job candidates stay during their interview in Columbus.

Cummins works to hire the best engineers in the world, with many of them working in Columbus, Dora said.

“We are their first and last impression,” he said.

Exhibit Columbus commitment

Dora Hotel Company, developer of the planned Holiday Inn Columbus, has commissioned a permanent sculpture to serve as the Exhibit Columbus logo, outside the front of Hotel Indigo, which it also owns.

Inside, Hotel Indigo will have Ex Columbus graphics located throughout.

Exhibit Columbus will run Aug. 26 to Nov. 26 in Columbus.

51-year hotel history

Three companies have owns the hotel property located at 2485 W. Jonathan Moore Pike on the west side of Columbus in a 51-year span.

1966: The first hospitality business to open at that location was the Imperial House motel, a $1 million, two-story, 86-room facility with a 350-person banquet hall. It was opened in July by a corporation headed by Rex Breeden, the late Columbus developer.

1984: Under the same ownership, the Imperial House was rebranded as the Ramada Inn on Jan. 1.

1991: Linden Hotel Corp., owned by the late Richard L. Johnson, president of Johnson Oil Co. of Columbus, bought the Ramada Inn from Breeden and Home Federal Savings Bank.

1997: Johnson added 51 guest rooms to the 113-room Ramada Inn, increasing the total to 164. It had one two-story wing and a three-story wing, plus a large banquet facility and a restaurant.

2002: Johnson tore down the eastern two-thirds of the Ramada Inn, leaving a 75-room, limited-service motel.

2004: Tim Dora’s Columbus Hotel Partners bought the 2.2-acre property on July 31 for $2,627,811, and began renovating it.

2017: The Ramada will be rebranded for a month’s time starting Tuesday as the Columbus Inn, which will close for renovations after Aug. 31.

2018: The 3-story Holiday Inn Columbus — renovated, expanded and rebranded — is expected to open in August. It will have 35 to 40 employees compared to 22 currently.