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New Hilton hotel brand to debut in Baltimore

A new Hilton hotel property plans to open in Baltimore in late May, positioning itself as one of the few extended-stay lodging options in the city at a time when hoteliers express concern about occupancy rates and a glut of available rooms.

Home2 is the McLean, Va.-based lodging chain’s newest brand, and the Baltimore location will be its third. Hilton is leasing the property at 8 E. Pleasant St. from Baywood Hotels Inc., which bought the Tremont Park Hotel for nearly $3.8 million in 2009. Baywood had turned the 13-story space into a Comfort Inn & Suites.

“Baywood and Hilton are committed to making the brand a success,” said General Manager Nick Speach.

But while Home2’s predecessor had more than 50 rooms to fill, Hilton will offer 95 and will be bringing more rooms to downtown Baltimore’s already oversaturated hotel market — one prominent downtown business group even went so far as to call for a halt to new hotel construction.

Other Home2 locations are already open in Fayetteville, N.C., and Layton, Utah.

“We actually have a lot of competition in our area,” said Gabe Garn, general manager of the Layton hotel. “But we’re finding our niche really nicely.” Garn said that while the Home2 locations may have many hotels nearby, very few are extended stay hotels.

Hotels are opening up in West Valley City, Utah, and San Antonio, Texas. While construction costs for Baltimore’s location were not disclosed, the costs of building a Home2 hover around $10 million, according to the company’s website.

Speach said the property is expected to open sometime between May 24 and 26.

Baywood is a hotel management firm based in Greenbelt. Officials from the company could not be reached for comment.

Speach said reservations are going well; for Labor Day weekend, the hotel is half booked. Home2 will start off with 17 local employees and plans to eventually grow to 27 staffers, he said.

Speach was previously an assistant front office manager for the Hilton Baltimore BWI Airport hotel, and joined as general manager for Home2 in January.

Last month, the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore Inc. officials called for a halt in hotel development during its annual “State of Downtown” meeting. Hotel space currently in development should be finished as soon as possible, the group said, but there should be no incentives for new hotel construction until overall occupancy improves.

“We’ve had more hotels than we need,” said Jon Koscher, general manager of the Sheraton Inner Harbor Hotel. “But there hasn’t been any development in a while.”

Koscher said he’s not concerned about the extra rooms because that part of Baltimore — in midtown between the Inner Harbor and Mount Vernon — isn’t as full of hotels.

“If they were building a 500-room Hilton somewhere else in town, then maybe,” he said.

Baltimore’s hotel occupancy is projected to increase to 62.9 percent in the next year, according to a March report by PKF Hospitality Research. That’s up from 62.4 percent during the past year. Lodging experts say a healthy occupancy rate is 70 percent or higher.

The new extended-stay hotel is still in the middle of furnishing and putting the final touches on what Hilton officials hope to be a refuge for cost-conscious guests. While Speach would not disclose rates, the Fayetteville location’s rates range from $125.10 to $154 per night.

An open lobby area has been created for communal and individual work zones, wireless access, a 52-inch flat-screen TV and a complimentary breakfast area.

Standard guest suites include a kitchen, with a refrigerator and freezer, along with a dishwasher, place settings for six, a microwave oven and a coffee maker. The suite also includes a sleeper sofa, a 42-inch flat-screen TV and an iHome alarm clock with an iPod port and MP3 jack.