Landmark Hotel in Downtown Fayetteville Undergoes Massive Makeover as The Chancellor

by George Waldon  on Monday, Nov. 21, 2011 12:00 am  

Ike Thrash, left, and Sam Alley have partnered to restore the faded luster of a landmark high-rise hotel in Fayetteville that has seen a series of financial ups and downs. [Photo by Wesley Hitt]

A new era for an iconic Fayetteville property began after the last of the weekend guests checked out of the Cosmopolitan Hotel on Nov. 13. Their exit allowed work to begin on a massive makeover of the 15-story project at 70 N. East Ave.With a $7.1 million building permit in hand, new owners are transforming the 30-year-old high-rise into The Chancellor.

"I'm real excited about that," said Fayetteville Mayor Lionel Jordan. "They came in here a couple months ago and talked about their plans to completely remodel the hotel, inside and out. It will be one of the top hotels in the region and is a much-needed development in the downtown area."

Local boosters hope the new effort by Southwind Hospitality Holdings LLC, a partnership led by Mississippian Ike Thrash and Sam Alley of Little Rock, will overcome the financial failings of past owners, which include two foreclosures and unfulfilled promises to update the landmark building and restore its first-class luster.

The Chancellor renaming is a nod to the project's symbiotic relationship with the University of Arkansas. Originally opened as a Hilton Inn in 1981, the hotel was developed in conjunction with a neighboring project launched by the city in partnership with the university.

The property adjoins the conference facilities of the University of Arkansas Global Campus, School of Continuing Education and Academic Outreach Center, and the two buildings share a second-floor access.

Marilyn Heifner, executive director of the Fayetteville Advertising & Promotion Commission, said the Southwind renovation promises to restore the faded glory of the city's only full-service hotel.

"It was the go-to place back in the day," Heifner said. "It was the premier place to stay with its proximity to the downtown square and Dickson Street."

The Southwind investors plan to reopen the reconfigured and renovated hotel in time to book rooms for the first Razorbacks football weekend in September 2012.

The lobby at The Chancellor will be opened to accommodate a restaurant and bar. With a redesigned lobby as a focal point on the ground floor, suites will be built on the top two floors. In between, the new room count will be 210 with more meeting space added. Valet parking will be supported by 170 slots leased on the first and third levels of the city's parking deck.

"The next thing people want, including me, is to see it open," said Thrash, president of Dawn Properties Inc. of Hattiesburg, Miss.

The property will be refurbished from top to bottom, but it won't be reflagged as a Hilton or Radisson, names from its past, or affiliated with another national hotel chain.

The downside of franchise entanglements affecting the

project financially and operationally was deemed to outweigh the benefits of name recognition and the tie-in with a national reservation service.

 

 

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