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Posted on Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 5:59 a.m.

Construction imminent for 2 new hotels in Ann Arbor

By Paula Gardner

Site work preparation is under way for two new hotels that will be constructed in Ann Arbor on an 8-acre site adjacent to Briarwood Mall.

The Raymond Group, based in Middleton, Wisc., is lining up permits for the project that was approved in 2009, said City Planner Chris Cheng.


Two new hotels on this property - between Briarwood Circle and Interstate 94 near the JC Penney end of Briarwood Mall - were approved in 2009.

Melanie Maxwell |

The hotels - a Hilton Garden Inn and Towne Place Suites by Marriott - will add a combined 227 rooms to the 4,000-room Washtenaw County hotel market.

The developer bought the property from an entity that formerly owned Briarwood Mall, paying $1 million in December 2009. Located next to Interstate 94 at 1301 Briarwood Circle, south of the JC Penney store’s southwest entrance, the property has been enclosed with fencing and a construction trailer now sits at the edge of the entrance.

The company’s website notes that the 8-acre property “is located about three miles south of downtown Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan campus, and two miles south of the University of Michigan football stadium known as ‘The Big House.’ The hotels will be the newest hotels in their competitive set amongst a variety of older properties.”

That raises the competitive factor among other Ann Arbor hotels, said Chuck Skelton of Hospitality Advisors. He said the new hotels aren’t likely to create new demand and will be trying to draw customers from the existing market.

One example of their possible impact: “(They) could hurt outlying hotels from Chelsea, Milan during home football games,” Skelton said.

Washtenaw County’s hotel market is the best in the state, with a 60 percent occupancy average through the first half of the year - and an average rate of $84 per booked room. That compares with a 51 percent occupancy average across Michigan.

However, the county’s hotel market also is still suffering from the overall industry downturn, seeing average occupancy fall from 63.1 percent in 2008 to 58.9 percent in 2009.

Still, Ann Arbor has attracted attention from multiple hotel operators even during the downturn, including one that sought to develop downtown and others that wanted to build on top of the “Library Lot.” On the outskirts of town, one hotel project stalled on Jackson Road during the recession, while the Hawthorn Suites in northeast Ann Arbor was listed for sale after the lender foreclosed.

“I think Ann Arbor is perceived as being … the most consistent and strongest market, but it’s also somewhat of a fragile market because it’s a small market,” Skelton said.

The properties next to Briarwood Mall are listed as four under development by The Raymond Group, which did not return a call seeking comment. The other two are in Texas.

One of the hotels will be a four-story, 97-room Towne Place Suites, a Marriott brand with 190 locations in the U.S., according to its website. Seven operate in Michigan, including five in Metro Detroit and locations in Kalamazoo and East Lansing.

Its format caters to the extended-stay business traveler, with amenities like a 24-hour market and on-site laundry. Layouts include studios, one- and two-bedroom suites with full kitchens.

The Hilton Garden Inn property will be a 130-room facility with restaurant and pool, according to the plans approved by the city. The global chain is opening about two dozen new hotels this year, according to its website.

Brinkmann Constructors of Chesterfield, Mo., will be the general contractor, according to city documents.

The Raymond Group operates in eight states, and these facilities will mark their entry to the Michigan market.

“They have some strong brands in their portfolio,” Skelton said. “… I just hope they’re realistic about what kind of rate they can achieve here.”

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Paula Gardner is news director of She can be reached by email or followed on Twitter.


Jaclyn Snellgrove

Fri, Nov 4, 2011 : 12:28 a.m.

That area needs more hotels?? I would like see more on the West side of town like the Jackson/Zeeb/Maple area. Webers could stand a little competition.


Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 8:59 p.m.

I miss the Old Arbor Lodge, but that was a motel and not hotel.

david holden

Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 7:21 p.m.

Competition is good. The Sheraton. Marriott Courtyard, and Holdiay Inn Express have all recently remodeled.


Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 11:52 p.m.

Webers has also been remodeled.


Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 5:59 p.m.

Hotel construction costs remain high even during the recession which is why Valiant Partners expected to charge close to $200 per night to use their rooms a their downtown location. By comparison, Hawthorne Suites offered two bedroom with kitchenette suite for $117 per night several years ago when my relatives stayed there. Unfortunately, Hawthorne Suites has subsequently foreclosed. Both new hotels will benefit from having major corporate financing support but still may not be profitable if they must offer competitive room rates. Adding 5% to the available number of hotel rooms in the area will not help. I am appalled that a local general contractor will not used.

Angry Redneck

Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 9:13 p.m.

Sorry, but I genuinely doubt these hotel developers care whether you're appalled or not.

Tom Teague

Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 6:32 p.m.

I would also expect some re-alignment in the local hotel picture if the market becomes over saturated. There are probably local hotels making little profit even on busy days that would close or convert space to other uses.


Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 6:24 p.m.

National companies that have retail stores or in this case hotels often have agreements with big contractors that do the spec work for them. I would hazard a guess that the General Contractor on the Costco project is from out of town too. Now this isn't to say that they won't use considerable local contractors to do a lot of the work.

greg, too

Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 4:47 p.m.

The city needs the hotel rooms to possibly grow conference or other type of tourism revenue in the area and people are complaining? What would you put on the empty land instead of hotels?

Ricardo Queso

Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 9:06 p.m.

Veracity, have you ever tried to book a room for a business guest that is something other than a low end budget hotel?


Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 5:55 p.m.

So you are a believer in "field of dreams," that is, if they build them people will come to fill them. I hope that you are right although I do not see people flocking to the hotels because they provide unique experiences. Remember that the occupancy rate is a poor 60% now and will not increase just because available rooms increases by 5%.

Tom Teague

Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 4:34 p.m.

Through two experiences -- working as a consultant in AA for nearly a year before moving here, and booking out-of-town family and business associates -- I can attest that a lot of hotel space in the city is showing its age and a couple of new facilities would be welcome. As far as who stays there when there's not a game, I learned that many people use hotels to be near family members who are in one of the area hospitals or rehab facilities for long stays, and that there is a lot of business travel to the area for the University and the auto makers' technical support facilities.

Tom Teague

Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 6:24 p.m.

I'm certainly not expert in hotel business planning, but the overall occupancy rate isn't a blanket number applied to every hotel every night. In fact, it can vary greatly from hotel to hotel and even hotel type to hotel type; I'm thinking about places I've had to stay when my preferred hotel is full. Market research might be telling the developers that there's room to grow and make profit in newer rooms built for a specific demographic. Even older half-full hotels can be profitable if the operating costs are low enough, but that doesn't mean that business travelers want to stay there.


Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 5:42 p.m.

But still the overall occupancy rate is only 60%. These two hotels will increase the number of available rooms by 5% without generating new demand. Also, construction remains high even in the recession so it will be interesting to see if these hotel offer competitive room rates and yet survive as profitable business entities.

Seasoned Cit

Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 4:32 p.m.

How about putting the arrow on your map in the correct spot. The article says south of JC Penny.. not north as indicated on the map.

Peter Eckstein

Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 2:24 p.m.

Funny that neither of these developers wants to build a conference center along with their hotel. I remember being told that there was great demand for such a center--at least as long as the taxpayers were willing to subsidize it.


Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 2:06 p.m.

And who will fill these motels up between Football seasons?


Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 11:53 a.m.

I'd rather see a new hotel, or two, downtown, not at Briarwood. It is for much of the year impossible to get a block of rooms within walking distance to Central Campus.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 2:13 p.m.

I'm guessing: parking. And I'm certain that the DDA's proposed hike in parking fees will fix this, right? Good Night and Good Luck


Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 11:47 a.m.

I don't understand why the hotel is only four stories? It seems it would be a wiser use of land to have the first floor be parking and checkin, and then do a six or seven story building to make use of the land?


Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 11:46 a.m.

The map location is off, it should be on the other side of the Mall.

Paula Gardner

Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 12:06 p.m.

Yes, ignore the A from Google maps. That's the location it loaded for the address. The construction site is between I-94 and Briarwood Circle - west of the former LaZBoy store (now Kapnick) and near the pond in this map.

Mike Dean

Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 10:28 a.m.

Presumably Hilton Gardens should be Hilton Garden Inn.

Paula Gardner

Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 12:05 p.m.

That's been corrected. Thank you.