Hotel, conference center becomes a reality

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 17, 2005

A decade ago, it was a mere dream.

Five years ago, it became a viable idea ripe with potential.

And on Wednesday, with the snip of a ribbon, the $22 million Suffolk Hilton Garden Inn and Suffolk Conference Center became a reality.

Email newsletter signup

&uot;This is a momentous occasion,&uot; said Mayor Bobby L. Ralph during the long-awaited ribbon cutting attended by approximately 75 city and hotel officials. &uot;We are celebrating another crown jewel in Suffolk’s downtown.&uot;

The 150-room hotel, 14,000-square-foot conference and hotel restaurant, The Constant’s Wharf Grill, opened for business Friday. The city and the Atlanta-based Noble Investment Group teamed up to build the hotel and adjacent conference center, which can serve up to 1,000 people simultaneously.

The hospitality industry nationwide suffered in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, said Steven Nicholas, director of operations for the Noble Investment Group.

But times are looking up, he said.

&uot;In the last few months, we

have experienced a turnaround,&uot; Nicholas said. &uot;This is the perfect time to be opening this new facility.&uot;

The hotel is hoping to serve at least 50,000 overnight guests and up to 240,000 meals annually, he added.

Ralph and IDA Chairman John Harrell credited City Manager R. Steven Herbert and former city lawmakers with the vision for developing the hotel.

Former City Manager Myles Standish agreed.

&uot;Steve Herbert pulled it together and held it together,&uot; he said. &uot;Anytime you break new ground-literally and figuratively- it can be a challenge.

&uot;But the community is ready for it. This is going to be a great asset to the city.&uot;

Betsy Brothers, executive director of the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts, is equally optimistic.

&uot;A lot of us who care about preservation are thrilled with its beautiful, classic design,&uot; she said. &uot;I think its wonderful.

&uot;This is where we all started,&uot; she continued, referring to Constant’s Wharf. &uot;I think John Constant (one of Suffolk early settlers in the mid-1700s who owned warehouses on the site) would be proud.&uot;