The first Marriott hotel in the City of Buffalo opened for business Tuesday, bringing 102 new rooms on line, with a bistro café serving Starbucks coffee, conference rooms, a saltwater pool with neon lighting and front-row views of Canalside.
The new Courtyard by Marriott at One Canalside opened with no fanfare, but with high hopes. A formal grand opening will be scheduled in a few weeks, but there has been a lot of buzz about the hotel’s opening.
“We’re the first movement, the first working part of the new Canalside,” said Casey Wehrlin, assistant general manager. “We’re kicking everything off.”
The hotel, which occupies the first four floors and lower level of the former Donovan State Office Building, already had rooms booked for its first night – even though Marriott did not list it as available until Friday – and through the next couple of months. As the summertime schedule kicks off for concerts, sports and other events at the waterfront and First Niagara Center, managers are confident they will be fully booked for several months. Room rates range from $179 per night and up.
Already, the hotel is getting bookings for Phillips Lytle LLP, with which it shares the building, as well as M&T Bank Corp. and the Buffalo Sabres. The 43 North business plan competition is also generating business, as is the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. Roswell Park Cancer Institute, for example, is bringing guests from cancer centers in Seattle and Houston for a conference in June.
Business is also coming from concerts by Bruno Mars, Lady Gaga and Justin Timberlake, which will draw crowds in early July. The Buffalo Bandits lacrosse team is bringing top league officials for a major event. The National Horseshoe Pitchers Association and Speedo Swim Championships created demand. And cable channel QVC is doing a live presentation of a cooking show at Canalside.
And, of course, there are the brides. “We have dates where we can’t take any more room reservations,” said Wendy Clubine, director of sales. “It’s exciting.”
The hotel is designed using a new “synergy” prototype model for Courtyard by Marriott – the first of its kind in the country, said Eric Recoon, vice president of leasing and development for owner Benderson Development Co. All furnishings and carpeting on the three guest room floors adhere to the standards.
But the developer had to work around unique challenges of reusing an old office building, resulting in some unique room designs. And wherever possible, Benderson sought latitude to showcase the building’s heritage, including the history of Buffalo, the Erie Canal and especially the original building’s namesake, Gen. William Donovan – the founder of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in World War II that later became the Central Intelligence Agency.
Historic photographs of Donovan and other distinctive Buffalo people and places are featured throughout the hotel, including a floor-to-ceiling mural of turn-of-the-century Buffalo in the lobby near the elevators. The building’s support columns, which Benderson worked around, are also wrapped in murals unless they’re inside a guest room. The developer is also trying to get other Donovan artifacts, including a portrait from the state Archives – perhaps to display in the Donovan Room, which is a high-tech boardroom on the lower level.
In the lobby, a large touch-screen “Go Board” displays local weather, news, stocks, attractions, restaurants, flight times and other information, which can be printed with the tap of a finger or sent to a mobile phone. A nearby library features books on Buffalo, Donovan, the Great Lakes, the Erie Canal, Frank Lloyd Wright and Cheerios.
The first-floor Bistro is expected to be a busy lunch stop, serving a limited menu of hot and iced Starbucks coffees and teas, plus breakfast offerings, soups, salads, sandwiches, appetizers and even a warm chocolate chip cookie sundae. Against the windows are round booths, each with its own TV mounted to a partition at the side.
Also in the lobby are desktop computers and printers, and dedicated stations where guests can look up flight times and print boarding passes. A nearby theater room features a large TV, soft seating and popcorn.
The hotel was designed particularly with the business traveler in mind. Free Wi-Fi and a variety of modern workspaces are scattered throughout the hotel, all with an abundance of charging stations. Three of the four conference rooms have moving walls that can be opened to create larger spaces and are surfaced in white boards that can be written on with dry-erase markers.
In addition to modern decor, each room has several charging stations – sets of two electrical outlets and a USB port – for visitors’ various smartphones, computers, tablets and other digital devices throughout the room and in each night stand. Each bathroom has a cutout nook between the shower that keeps eyeglasses, toiletries and towels within arms reach while showering. All rooms have mobile workstations – desks that can be moved anywhere and are the right height to work from bed.
The hotel also has adjoining rooms, which have two queen-sized beds in each – a rarity in Western New York, and a big selling point for large families traveling together. Beds are covered with new “cloud” comforters. Giant picture windows and floor-to-ceiling drapes are common. And thick three-pane windows keep out highway noise.
Other design features include drop-down “S”-shaped ceilings, hanging ceramic tile chandeliers and cylindrical lights, and a custom-designed glass railing along a semi-spiral staircase connecting the lobby and lower levels. Upstairs, hallways are unusually wide in places, with broad common areas.
Finally, in front of the black-and-tan stone driveway, designers built a stone-tile outdoor patio and gazebo enclosed by granite-topped stone walls, with fire pits and more soft seating. Plans also call for displaying the original Donovan building cornerstone on the grounds.
“The public spaces are so important to great buildings and great areas, and we’ve created a lot of outdoor areas to take advantage of the great outdoor and waterfront location,” Recoon said. “They did a sensational job ... They knocked it out of the park on this one.”