Mayor registers as first guest as Hilton opens

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 12, 2005

With the stroke of a pen, Suffolk Mayor Bobby L. Ralph became the first official registered guest at the new Hilton Garden Inn at Constant’s Wharf on Friday.

The $22-million, 150-room hotel and the adjoining 14,000-square-foot Suffolk Conference Center opened Friday with little publicity.

Although work is still being done inside the building and on site, the hotel is open for guests, said Keith Alexander, the hotel’s general manager, in a press release.

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The hotel’s upscale restaurant, the Constant’s Wharf Grill, is also open. Alexander said Friday’s event was subdued.

&uot;This is what we call our soft opening,&uot; he said. &uot;The city and the hotel have several events planned within the coming weeks that will celebrate our official opening.

&uot;We’ll pull out all the stops to make our grand opening events something special for the community.&uot;

Hotel amenities include a 24-hour fitness center, Jacuzzi, lounge and high-speed Internet service in each room. The 7,300-square-foot Nansemond Grand Ballroom in the conference center can accommodate 600 people for dinner and can divide into four meeting rooms for smaller functions.

&uot;This is a great location,&uot; said Alexander. &uot;When you enter, you’re greeted by a wonderful view of the Nansemond River, the public park, and the deepwater marina. There’s not another place like it in this region.&uot;

Hotel and city officials have predicted that the hotel and conference center will attract as many as 40,000 visitors to the city each year and generate millions of dollars in revenue. Bookings from all over the Hampton Roads and beyond are coming in, Alexander said.

The $22-million project is a public-private partnership, financed by the Suffolk Industrial Development Authority and the Atlanta-based Stormont Noble Development.

The city kicked in $12 million on the project, most of which funded construction of the city-owned conference center.

&uot;This is the largest public-private partnership in the history of the city,&uot; said IDA Chairman John Harrell.

The project – a cornerstone to the ongoing downtown revitalization – will be a great asset for the city, Ralph said.

&uot;We expect it to be a great draw for those who visit, and the public park and marina are great amenities for those of us who live here,&uot; he said. &uot;We know the economic impact will resonate throughout the entire community. This is a momentous occasion for Suffolk.&uot;