Wed | Dec 13, 2017

Former Wyndham renovation upsized

Published:Wednesday | August 30, 2017 | 12:00 AMHuntley Medley
Hotelier Kevin Hendrickson shows off the designs for the 77 Knutsford hotel now under redevelopment.
The former Wyndham hotel at 77 Knutsford Boulevard in New Kingston.
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Having paid US$17.6 million for the former Wyndham hotel in New Kingston, businessman Kevin Hendrickson had planned to spend just over US$100 million to refurbish it in three phases.

Now an expanded concept for the city hotel integrating three contiguous properties and the planned construction of a new tower of rooms with multilevel parking for the property located at 77 Knutsford Boulevard, as well as for the Courtleigh and Pegasus hotels he also owns nearby, has pushed the price tag well beyond the original budget.

The first phase of what Hendrickson refers to as "Project 77" will now run the hotelier well over US$55 million from an initial projection of US$45 million, while phase two could top the US$60 originally contemplated.

The phase one and two budgets translate to nearly $15 billion in local currency. The final phase is still unpriced.

"Phase three is currently with the architects for concept, which is a new tower consisting of multilevel parking, as well as additional rooms and supporting facilities," Hendrickson told Gleaner Business, adding that it was too early to definitively say how many new rooms would be allowed by city and government permits.

A delay in government permits for the redevelopment has already resulted in the hotel missing its spring 2017 reopening. Hendrickson now expects that "optimistically, by late next year" the property will open for business.

That delay has money implications for the businessman and hotelier, who pointed to opportunity costs in terms of missed revenues, which he stopped short of quantifying. In addition, the full construction team assembled and engaged at significant cost had nothing to do for months.

The businessman is relieved that with the permits in hand some 10 weeks now, work is on in earnest. If the property meets its current redevelopment schedule, it could be opened next year with fewer rooms than the current 303. This as new suites are being added to the existing, tower reducing the room count there to 185, while the lanai rooms off the main tower are likely to be demolished to make way for gardens.

The highlight of the redevelopment is a new conference facility with a high 20-foot ceiling being built from scratch to house what is intended to be Kingston's largest ballroom and pre-function space. Current parking spaces between the former Wyndham and Pegasus properties are to be utilised for the multilevel car park, construction of which is expected to start next year.

Hendrickson is not looking beyond local banks to finance the enlarged project, and National Commercial Bank (NCB) is providing loans to support both the purchase and redevelopment.

"We made our presentation to NCB based on one formula that was approved. That formula has to be revisited. We have already had discussions with the bank, and the amount we are borrowing to complete this project should not be something they find challenging or difficult," the businessman said.

The new concept will see the property going aggressively after the international and regional convention business. A steady rise in tourist numbers to Kingston generally is also being viewed as a driving force behind the enlarging of the property's redevelopment scope.

"Kingston is happening. On the social and entertainment scenes, there is something going on somewhere in the city every day," Hendrickson said, adding that there is also tremendous emphasis on gastronomy with new restaurants like jerk fare and Japanese cuisine expanding in the city. 77 Knutsford will also feature a wine bar and more relaxed business-centre facilities.

"It will be more of a hotel that caters to the younger millennial generation modern minimalist style, cleaner look. It's a younger hotel and fresher look. We are daring to go places we have never gone before," the property owner said of what is expected to be ultimately unveiled.

He says he producing a true four-star hotel with amenities that would allow for an easy conversion to a five-star property in the future.

The name of the hotel is still to be finalised.

"It is part of the discussion we are having internally. We may go with a brand. There are options," said Hendrickson, noting that several current hotel brands, including Wyndham Worldwide, have come knocking.

He says there is no rush in making the decision. "Surprisingly, we have time."

huntley.medley@gleanerjm.com