DALLAS—To some, hospitality company NewcrestImage is in a rapid growth stage, with new developments and a westward expansion. But to NewcrestImage chairman/CEO Mehul Patel, this time for the company is just business as usual.
“Every year, NewcrestImage has a great year, and we continue to innovate; our growth isn’t just growth—our growth is very purposeful, very thoughtful, a unique way of doing things,” he said. “We don’t do anything if there is no purpose. The growth has to have a purpose behind it.”
The company just entered a deal with Hyatt for five new hotels to join the Hyatt properties NewcrestImage already owns. “We are really excited to expand our relationship with Hyatt,” said Patel. “The partnership goes back four years. We bought two corporate hotels from them in 2014, and then we bought five more.”
The company also developed two other Hyatts along the way, and Patel sits on the brand’s Franchise Owner Advisory Council. Jim Chu, global head of development, Hyatt, only has praise for Patel and NewcrestImage. “He is a great partner,” Chu said. “He knows what guests want and what to look for. He also looks out for what is best for the brand, not just his properties.”
When developing projects, Patel said that the company often will choose a brand’s latest launch. In fact, NewcrestImage opened the first AC Hotel by Marriott in the U.S. in New Orleans. “Obviously, you pick the best location,” Patel said. “You have to pick the best brand that fits it. We’ll focus on the brand-new venture that every brand has, like AC, Canopy by Hilton, Hyatt Centric or Hyatt Place.”
With projects like the first AC in the U.S., Marriott has seen NewcrestImage’s success firsthand, and Patel sits on its advisory board, too. “Mehul is a great asset to have on the board,” said Eric Jacobs, chief development officer for North America, Marriott International. “He always looks out for what is best for the brands, not just what will work best for his own properties. He offers a great deal of insight.”
In addition to choosing the latest ventures from brands, NewcrestImage also likes to differentiate their properties from others in the area. “We ask, ‘How are we going to uniquely position ourselves with food and beverage?’” he said. “It has to be specialty drinks, because anybody can get a Budweiser on any street downtown. Why do we want to provide a Budweiser when anybody can sell that? How can we provide unique drinks that people don’t get to experience? With every hotel, we focus on creating a special drink for that hotel.”
And when it comes to food, he said, “Everybody wants to be health conscious, but within that, how do you bring in some different flavor, some different taste? You want the food and drinks to tie together.”
Meeting space is also a big differentiator for NewcrestImage. “We focus on the meeting space by rebranding it into a private entity; all of our spaces are taking it to a different level now,” he said. “In our meeting space, we are putting up all soft seating. People are sitting eight hours on a chair, classroom-style, which gets really boring. All of our hotels that are lifestyle, we are bringing in soft seating and giving people a living room-style setup. During breaks, we are bringing in live music or we do a different food. They may sound like little things, but it is a really big thing in a meeting space.”
The company also unveiled a new project in Grapevine, TX—a three-hotel campus called Silverlake Crossings. The 52-acre multi-use community—which already includes a dual-branded hotel that NewcrestImage has operated since 2013, a 181-room Courtyard by Marriott and 120-suite TownePlace Suites by Marriott—will have a 152-room Hilton Garden Inn, with a planned groundbreaking in July 2019 and an expected 16-month construction; a 300-room Renaissance; and a 250-room dual-branded AC Hotel by Marriott (135 rooms) and Element by Westin (115 rooms).
In addition to the hotels, NewcrestImage will build a 30,000-sq.-ft. convention center; a 1,200-sq.-ft. Starbucks; and a four-floor 80,000-sq.-ft. office building to which the company will move its headquarters.
NewcrestImage is also in the process of building another hotel campus at Frisco Station in North Dallas with four brands and 600 rooms. “Frisco Station is a 242-acre mixed-use project that is led by Hillwood, Ross Perot Jr.’s development company,” said Patel. “Frisco didn’t have a lifestyle brand or extended-stay. We said, ‘OK, what can we do differently that wasn’t done in DFW or many other cities?’ You create a lifestyle center within Frisco Station with all unique brands. We picked four brands: AC, Residence Inn, Canopy and Hyatt Place.”
The dual-branded AC Hotel by Marriott and Residence Inn by Marriott is scheduled to open in late June, while the Canopy by Hilton is opening in late 2019; construction will begin on the Hyatt Place in 2020.
The company has another hotel campus in Texas—this time in Amarillo—under development. When the campus is completed later this year, it will have three brands—Tru by Hilton, Hyatt Place and Aloft—with 274 rooms. The Tru property opened in August 2018.
“We thought, ‘Why don’t we create a campus, but with different tiers and with different customer profiles?’” he said. “That just gives you the trendy and the mixed variety of customer profiles that people haven’t tried. We are trying something different to really challenge ourselves. Aloft will be very well received. It doesn’t matter if you live in a suburb: You should have a project that is something like Aloft, which is very trendy.”
In Houston, the company is in the process of converting a 10-story, 105-year-old office building—first built as the headquarters of Gulf Oil—into an AC hotel, scheduled to open in June. “We would always look for Class B office buildings with a Class A location—or a Class C office building, but Class A location,” said Patel. “We bought the building and we knew what brand we wanted to do because of the AC model. We have six AC hotels we have done so far. When we bought the building, we knew that this is the right brand because when you do a lifestyle brand like AC—modern, inspired by Europeans—and you have a 105-year history, you are able to take some of the historic character and the modern, contemporary design, and it goes very well; you are able to bring a lot of character.”
The AC Houston will also be the company’s first venture in an agreement with Starbucks. The 1,100-sq.-ft. Starbucks at the property will include “forward-thinking design” that uses lots of white surfaces; oak wood flooring; a white-veined quartz counter; and a unique ceiling light fixture created especially for the site.
“By perfectly pairing an innovative coffee concept with an innovative accommodations concept, we are creating an exciting new chapter in the rich history of a prominent building in Houston’s central business district,” said Patel.
Another Starbucks location will open in Dallas, adjacent to a complex of three hotels operated by the hotel company and also convenient for retail shoppers, office workers and local residents. The three nearby hotels are the dual-branded AC Hotel by Marriott (128 rooms) and Residence Inn (121 rooms), and the 176-room Hampton Inn & Suites. The Marriott-branded properties have been open since 2017, while the Hampton opened in 2016. It will have a cozy and welcoming environment, according to Patel, by using lots of white and oak wood surfaces, including a distinctive wood wall and a large rectangular piece of artwork that work together to capture visual interest.
Moving forward, the company has begun an expansion westward. “We are really excited to expand,” he said. We are breaking ground in Phoenix on a 12-story, 200-room AC hotel next to the convention center. This would be our first project in Phoenix, so it is another AC brand. We are really excited to launch the brand there. It will break ground in the next 30 days.” HB
Banking on it
In addition to all of the expansion NewcrestImage has made, three of its executives—Mehul Patel, Chirag Patel and Mital Patel—through their company Bright Force Holding LLC, recently acquired American Bank N.A., a community bank located in North Dallas.
While the bank is a separate entity and not affiliated with NewcrestImage, Mehul Patel believes that their experience as borrowers will help the bank’s success. “We understand what it takes to borrow money. We want to provide a different banking experience,” he said. “We felt like we could change the game in banking. That is where we want to leverage our expertise, like what we have done with AC. Our goal is to make sure that we have the best product, best design, best service culture. We want to reinvent the banking side of it.”