American Liberty Hospitality to open dual-branded Hilton hotel in TMC area

Houston-based American Liberty Hospitality is preparing to open its third dual-branded hotel in the area, which will be located in the Texas Medical Center area.

The combined Hilton Garden Inn and Home2 Suites by Hilton at 6840 Almeda Road will offer a total of 300 rooms, plus 3,600 square feet of meeting and event space, when it opens on Sept. 23. Both brands are franchises of Hilton, with Hilton Gerden Inn serving traditional hotel guests and Home2 Suites by Hilton serving extended-stay guests.

Of the hotel’s 300 rooms, 143 will be aimed at hosting extended-stay guests.

The hotel’s location is within the campus of the Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center, an affiliate of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

The ground lease for the hotel was made possible via the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Enhanced-Use Lease Program. According to the department’s website, the program allows the VA to lease “underutilized real estate under its jurisdiction or control to the private sector for up to 75 years for the purpose of developing supportive housing for homeless and at risk Veterans and their families.”

Proximity to the Texas Medical Center is a major draw for hotel developers, which can then market their projects to out-of-towners traveling to Houston for treatment or to visit a patient at the TMC.

“We’re honored to be on the Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center campus, surrounded by some of the top medical institutions on the planet,” said Nick Massad, senior vice president of development for ALH. “Our hotel has been designed to meet the special needs of this unique medical community and was developed, in part, to enhance the campus and help better serve our cherished vets.”

The 10-story building was designed by Houston-based MCS Architects. It includes a large central lobby with wood detailing, custom lighting and a massive map art installation that serves as a focal point behind the front desk.

Each hotel will have its own lounge and dining areas, which offer charging stations for those working or relaxing in the space. The Home2 Suites side of the hotel will have complimentary continental breakfast for guests in the Home2 restaurant.

The Hilton Garden Inn side will have a full-service restaurant and bar as well as event meeting space. Additionally, guests will have access to a 24-hour self-service space known as The Shop, which offers snacks, locally sourced food and beverages, and essential personal items.

The hotel will also have a dedicated meeting and event space on the second floor capable of housing up to 150 attendees.

All 143 extended-stay rooms at Home2 Suites will include a full-size refrigerator with ice maker, microwave, toaster, coffeemaker, dishwasher and kitchenware. Hilton Garden Inn will feature 157 rooms and suites designed for business and leisure travelers. Rooms are equipped with a coffeemaker, microwave and refrigerator.

Joint amenities on the property include an outdoor dining terrace with fireplaces, a heated pool, a fitness center, free Wi-Fi, 24-hour business center, large outdoor dog run, complimentary shuttle service within a 3-mile radius, 500-car parking garage and on-site guest laundry.

In light of the pandemic, the hotel installed the latest touchless technologies, medical-grade air filtration system and keyless check-in process. The hotel implements Hilton CleanStay and Hilton EventReady with CleanStay, ensuring a clean and safe experience for guests during their stay.

Houston-based Arch-Con Corp. served as the general contractor, and construction financing was provided by Houston-based Amegy Bank and its participant, Missouri-based UMB Bank.

American Liberty Hospitality opened a 300-room joint Hampton Inn and Homewood Suites by Hilton property at 710 Crawford St. downtown in 2016. The company’s Holiday Inn Express-Galleria Area and StayBridge Suites Houston-Galleria dual-branded hotel opened earlier this year.

The TMC-area hotel was announced in 2019, before the pandemic, but is now opening after the hospitality industry has been rocked by Covid-19. Travel bans and social distancing mandates all but froze business and leisure travel for over a year, leaving many hotel companies scrambling to find new revenue streams.

Data from Oxford Economics and the American Hotel & Lodging Association predicts that the U.S. will lose nearly 486,000 direct hotel industry jobs by the end of 2021, the San Antonio Business Journal reported in August. Only five states — California, Nevada, Florida, New York and Illinois — are expected to suffer bigger losses than Texas. The Lone Star State had more than 151,400 hotel industry jobs in 2019. In August, that total was closer to 130,000 — and more losses are expected by the end of the year.

One of Houston’s largest hotels, Hilton Post Oak by the Galleria, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Aug. 31, citing a sharp downturn in revenue as a result of the pandemic.

The hotel’s creditors claim they are owed a combined $91.2 million, a lawyer for the hotel said in court filings.

However, as vaccines against Covid-19 became more accessible this spring, travel began to pick back up, casting a much-needed lifeline to the beleaguered hospitality industry.

In May, for example, The Howard Hughes Corp. (NYSE: HHC) reported two of its hotels in The Woodlands saw higher occupancy rates than in the previous quarter. Jim Carman, president of the Houston region for Howard Hughes, said at the time that leisure-traveler demand for hotel rooms started to recover from the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic last summer and has continued to increase throughout the spring.

Howard Hughes Corp. recently sold its three hotels in The Woodlands for $252 million as it works to divest non-core assets. Los Angeles-based real estate investment and development firm Lowe, formerly known as Lowe Enterprises, partnered with an unnamed institutional investor to purchase the portfolio, the companies announced Sept. 16.

The new ownership will immediately begin a $25 million plan to upgrade and renovate the properties.

By the third quarter, the delta variant caused Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations to surge, likely impacting hotel business.

This year’s Offshore Technology Conference, held Aug. 16-19, was already expected to be significantly smaller than in past years even before delta, and the National Rifle Association canceled its annual meeting — which was slated to be held in Houston Sept. 3-5 — due to the Covid-19 numbers in Harris County. The NRA said in December that the event had already resulted in more than 7,000 hotel rooms being reserved in 30 hotels across the city.

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