Little Rock Eyes International Boost As Peabody Changes to Marriott

by Chuck Bartels, The Associated Press  on Wednesday, May. 1, 2013 11:15 am  

Peabody no more: Davidson Hotels and Resorts of Atlanta will now manage the hotel as a Marriott, which will have a Wednesday ceremony to mark the new name. (Photo by Dustin Nevill)

LITTLE ROCK - Downtown Little Rock is losing its ducks, but it's gaining some international recognition with the changeover of the Peabody hotel to a full-service Marriott.

The Peabody, modeled after its namesake in Memphis, Tenn., has featured ducks swimming in a fountain and enjoyed a popular resonance in the region since it took over the city-owned property in 2002.

Now that the hotel and convention center is becoming a Marriott, the city hopes to see growth in visitor numbers because of the chain's worldwide name recognition and promotions on a scale that the Peabody couldn't match.

Downtown has already seen visitor numbers grow with the Clinton Presidential Center and the River Market District as key attractions. Just blocks to the west, the Marriott will be among the anchors in a hotel corridor that also features a DoubleTree and the historic Capital Hotel.

(Previously: Kate Knable explored how hotels like the Peabody and Hilton reflag under new management.)

Davidson Hotels and Resorts of Atlanta will manage the Marriott, which held a ceremony Wednesday to mark the new name. Wednesday is also be the first day without ducks since the Peabody opened.

Fairwood Capital LLC of Memphis bought the lease from the Peabody Hotel Group and plans a $16 million renovation.

The hotel has its own meeting spaces and is connected to the 220,000-square-foot Statehouse Convention Center, which is run by the Little Rock Visitors and Convention Bureau.

Better Business Climate

Gretchen Hall, director of the bureau, said having Marriott promote the hotel and work to attract conventions will improve the city's business climate.

"The Peabody and the Peabody Hotel Group have been tremendous partners," Hall said. "They came in and took over a facility that was in desperate need of renovation and upgrades. They put a substantial amount of money into the property."

Marriott will pay considerably less rent than the Peabody. The city is giving it a break on the rent in light of the money that's to be spent on renovations.



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