Choice’s Cambria on a robust roll

ROCKVILLE, MD—Between hotel openings and groundbreakings, Choice Hotels International will more than double the current number of Cambria Hotels & Suites this year, with expectations of boosting that number even higher via multiple executed franchise agreements.

Janis Cannon
Choice Hotels International

“The pipeline is strong, and we are so excited about the future of the brand,” said Janis Cannon, Choice’s SVP of upscale brands. “Today, there are 28 open Cambria Hotels & Suites across the United States. And this year, we will continue our aggressive expansion with 14 planned hotel openings [and]18 groundbreakings.”

Together with its soft brand, Ascend Hotel Collection, Cannon indicated Choice is now a serious player in the upscale segment, noting Cambria continues to rapidly expand in popular urban markets where there is strong consumer demand.

“Cambria is in major markets with hotels in New York City, Pittsburgh, Chicago and Washington, DC. We have celebrated two grand openings in Texas this year in Southlake (Dallas) and McAllen,” she said, adding, “Openings will continue with a focus on key urban markets, including the Chicago Loop/Theatre District, the second Chicago property along with Magnificent Mile; Dallas; Los Angeles at LAX—the brand’s first property in California; New Orleans; Atlanta; and Phoenix.

Cambrias also are slated to open in Asheville, NC; Chandler, AZ; Middletown/Newport, RI; Westfield, IN; and West Orange, NJ.

Choice also will break ground on new-construction Cambria properties. Among the cities are Cincinnati; Houston; Los Angeles (at L.A. Live); Las Vegas; Downtown Miami; Oklahoma City; Omaha, NE; Savannah, GA; San Antonio; and Seattle.

Asked what’s driving the pace of expansion, Cannon said the brand is being developed and opened where there is strong consumer demand, with an eye toward meeting the needs of business travelers, Cambria’s primary target.

“We’ve found that there is a need for an upscale and affordable lodging option in key urban markets. Choice continues to invest corporate capital in deals that will put the brand on the map in the right locations. The brand also has launched a new conversion strategy that will help bring hotels to markets where land is at a premium. We also have been partnering with the industry’s top developers to bring product to the right markets,” said Cannon.

The Cambria brand recently signed agreements with franchise partners in Louisville, KY; Milwaukee; Saint Petersburg and Sarasota, FL; and Sonoma County, CA.

A key move for the brand will be Cambria’s foray into the California market with a property at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), which will be followed by several projects underway in the area, including hotels near L.A. Live, downtown L.A., Anaheim and Glendale.

“We’ve been looking forward to the opening [at LAX]since we purchased the land,” said Cannon. “With our rapid brand expansion in popular urban markets, Los Angeles is a natural fit for us, especially as travel continues to be on the upswing and L.A. experiences a record number of visitors. The 152-room property will be located just minutes from LAX, as well as near several top businesses, including Mattel Inc. The property also will feature a modern design that takes its cues from the fashion-forward city that surrounds it, including mid-century modern accents and exclusive, vibrant local artwork reminiscent of 1950s Los Angeles. [Private investment company] Fillmore Capital Partners LLC and Fillmore Hospitality LLC are developing and operating the property.”

Fillmore Capital Partners and Fillmore Hospitality, together with Integra, also broke ground last year on a 255-room Cambria hotel slated to open in 2018 in Nashville’s SoBro (South of Broadway) neighborhood.

Located at 8th Ave. and McGavock St., the site is near the Music City Center, Bridgestone Arena and historic Broad St.

When open, the property will feature the brand’s Social Circle restaurant offering food and beverage options composed of local specialties; liquor, wine and local craft beers; grab-and-go gourmet salads and sandwiches; and a barista bar. In keeping a “sense of place,” the property will also include another restaurant with a stage for live performances.

A rendering of a guestroom for the Cambria Hotel & Suites Nashville that is set to open in 2018

According to Ron Silva, president/CEO of Fillmore Capital Partners, “Nashville is ideal for us to help expand the Cambria portfolio as we continue our partnership and bring the brand to more and more cities.”

Fillmore also is behind Cambria projects in Southlake in Dallas/Ft. Worth North, Chicago Magnificent Mile and New Orleans.

Similarly, in late March, O’Reilly Hospitality Management LLC, Hankin Enterprises and Fulcrum Management opened the Cambria Hotel & Suites McAllen Convention Center in McAllen, TX. The 121-room property is proximate the convention center and the new McAllen Performing Arts Center, and three miles from McAllen International Airport. Considered a robust business-travel destination, the area has more than 600 manufacturing companies, according to Choice.

The third Cambria to open in the state, the hotel was designed as a new brand prototype, and features a customer-centric design with public spaces suitable for “hanging out,” local art, flexible meeting space and guestrooms that offer technology upgrades.

Asked what type of owners/developers are coming to the brand—existing Choice brand family members (multi-property franchisees), flag jumpers, newbies?—Cannon said Choice is working with a range of interested parties.

“Some we’ve had longstanding relationships with like Concord, Fillmore and O’Reilly Hospitality, but some we are working with for the first time. One interesting story is we’re in the process of developing another new hotel in downtown Los Angeles, and the developer happens to be a second-generation Choice Hotels franchisee. His father first developed several Rodeway Inn properties with us many years ago and then he went on to develop other properties across the Choice portfolio. Now, the next generation is working with us on the Downtown L.A. project,” said Cannon. 

Development opportunities for Cambria properties include not only new-construction, but adaptive reuse and conversions as well. “Primarily, the properties have been new-construction,” said Cannon. “In fact, many are on Choice land-controlled sites wherein we secure the land or building first before introducing developers. We did recently announce the opening of our second conversion in Durham, [NC], which followed the brand’s very first conversion in Chicago’s Magnificent Mile late last year.”

When determining a site for a Cambria property, Cannon indicated many factors are considered, including the following: Is there a demand from travelers? Is it close to area businesses? Is the property located near key areas where there are entertainment and leisure attractions?

The SVP noted Choice has put an emphasis on growing its upscale and Cambria offerings. “We have committed to invest corporate capital into deals that will put the brand in the areas where travelers are looking to visit. We also have adopted a new conversion strategy with adaptive-reuse buildings, like our Chicago Loop/Theatre District property that will open this year and is located above the historic Ford Center for the Performing Arts Oriental Theatre. This approach helps bring hotels to markets quickly,” said Cannon.

According to Choice data, Cambria hotels that opened over the past two years [2015/16] achieved RevPAR of $128 for 2016, and the entire portfolio ended 2016 at more than $100. HB

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