The BLU-Tique Hotel in downtown Akron is getting ready to reawaken from a COVID-19 pandemic slumber under the same ownership but with a new branding and marketing partner, Marriott.
The BLU-Tique at Main and Market streets is now part of Marriott International’s Tribute Portfolio, a collection of more than 55 independently owned upscale boutique hotels around the world. Marriott, with some 30 brands, is the world’s largest hotel operator based on number of rooms.
The ownership group of the 71-room BLU-Tique, which has been closed since mid-March 2020, plan to reopen the hotel later this year. (Owners currently are reluctant to say when they think that will happen.) When it does reopen, the hotel restaurant will have a revamped fresh, farm-to-table, Mediterranean-themed menu. The hotel’s original management team, Medina-based Riley Hotel Group, remains in place.
The new affiliation with Marriott will expand the BLU-Tique’s reach and generate better awareness for the property, owner and developer Tony Troppe said last week. The hotel will not be rebranded as a Marriott Hotel or have to change or add exterior signage, he said.
BLU-Zone reflects city history, culture
“It’s a great relationship. It’s been founded upon the recognition of a unique character for place,” Troppe said. “The Tribute Portfolio is looking for exciting, Akron-centric in this particular case, places that reflect the character of their community. … So they quickly understood what we were attempting to do in the BLU-Zone, in the epicenter of what is really the historic arts district.”
The BLU-Zone is Troppe’s vision for this particular part of Akron’s downtown, which includes the BLU-Tique Hotel, the BLU Jazz+ club and other properties, including restaurants, to connect to the city’s arts and culture history there.
“We were reflecting the past and building for the future,” Troppe said. He likes to call the area “the crossroads of commerce and culture.”
Riley Hotel Group operates other hotels, many of them boutique, and that appealed to Marriott, he said. Marriott is looking at the uniqueness and character of each hotel property and what it can bring to those sites, he said.
The partnership is coming at a necessary time for the BLU-Tique.
The pandemic has been devastating to the hospitality industry that includes hotels, restaurants and others, said Joe Moffa, president of Riley Hotel Group.
“The last two years have been difficult,” he said.
Moffa said he, Troppe and others in the ownership group are working diligently to reopen the BLU-tique.
“We were open 61 days” and then had to close, Moffa said. During the closure, the BLU-Tique has had monthly “carry” costs of $50,000 to $75,000, he said.
“We have a $13 million investment there,” Moffa said. The ownership group’s bank has worked with them on the finances, including getting deferrals, during the pandemic, he said. The city of Akron and Mayor Dan Horrigan have been great to work with over the last two years, he said.
Still, he said, “At the end of the day, it’s 25 months since we’ve been open.”
While developers in other cities likely would have walked away and left the property vacant, Moffa and Troppe said that will not happen with the BLU-Tique.
“We’re not going to do that,” Moffa said. “We want to be in downtown Akron.”
Having Marriott as a partner will help the BLU-Tique recover and grow, Moffa said.
“BLU-Tique was a ‘brand internacional’ in my mind. And now it’s official as we join the Marriott family of great international properties,” Troppe said. “We were able to tap into their global marketing system.”
New technology, upgrades introduced
The BLU-tique as a result of being affiliated with the Tribute Portfolio can take part in the global Marriott loyalty/rewards and points benefit program, Bonvoy, Tropp said.
To become part of Tribune Portfolio, the BLU-Tique owners have had to reinvest in the building and make changes that included upgrading technology that, for instance, will allow guests to check in using their smartphones.
Talks with Marriott started shortly after the BLU-Tique closed on March 15, 2020, Troppe said.
“We had just opened for a bright new year of 2020 aspirations,” Troppe said. Then state pandemic requirements forced the closure, he said.
Troppe and Riley Hotel Group began discussing how to reopen and reposition the BLU-Tique “to take advantage of a very different market” with expected changes in business and leisure travel, he said.
“It made sense for us to team up with the world’s best,” Troppe said.
Hotel expansion possible
What also will help the BLU-Tique and other local hospitality businesses will be the return of employees to downtown Akron offices and increased foot traffic, Moffa said.
“We need businesses to get back to normal,” he said. The industry needs more business travel, business meetings and meals, he said.
“We need people walking around downtown Akron,” he said.
The reopening of the BLU-Tique at some point this year will be exciting, Moffa said.
“I can’t think of a more highly anticipated opening in downtown,” he said.
The BLU-Tique, the former United Building, officially opened with a New Year’s Eve celebration in 2019.
The $10 million boutique hotel was redeveloped with the support of historic tax credits and other financing. The 58,000-square-foot, eight-story property at 1 S. Main St. that originally opened in 1924 at one time was the headquarters of the United Cigar Co.
Troppe said his vision includes expanding the BLU-Tique name and hotel concept elsewhere in the United States. He also said there is room at the Akron site to build an 85-room addition that would being the total number of rooms to 156. That expansion is probably three to five years away, he estimated.
Beacon Journal reporter Jim Mackinnon can be reached at 330-996-3544 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him @JimMackinnonABJ on Twitter or www.facebook.com/JimMackinnonABJ.