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Published: Sunday, 6/3/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

New manager pursues upgrades at Park Inn

BY DANIEL NEMAN
BLADE FOOD EDITOR
‘I don’t know if Toledo needs a five-star [hotel], but what I do know is Toledo needs something better,’ says Michael Carlson, general manager of Toledo’s Park Inn. ‘I don’t know if Toledo needs a five-star [hotel], but what I do know is Toledo needs something better,’ says Michael Carlson, general manager of Toledo’s Park Inn.
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Last week, Michael Carlson bought $22,000 worth of towels, washcloths, and sheets. He has a lot more to go, but it’s a start.

Mr. Carlson is the new general manager of the Park Inn by Radisson hotel downtown, and it is his job to improve and update the property. Though he has only been on the job for a month -- his first day was May 1 -- the 51-year-old manager is already working to improve the hotel’s service and revamp its rooms.

By August, he hopes to begin the first part of a two-phase plan to update and improve the facilities, with phase two beginning by December. By the time the work is finished, he expects the Park Inn will occupy a niche somewhere between what the industry calls a “select” hotel, such as a Hampton Inn or Courtyard by Marriott, and a full-service hotel such as a Sheraton.

The difference, he said, is that the Park Inn has services that are not typically found at select hotels, including a restaurant, a bar, and a bellman. One of the first things Mr. Carlson did when he took the position was to hire a bellman, which the hotel had not had for years.

“I don’t know if Toledo needs a five-star [hotel], but what I do know is Toledo needs something better. And that’s where I’m going. That’s why I’m optimistic,” he said.

Mr Carlson has worked at numerous hotels across the country, including the former Pan Pacific in San Diego, a luxury hotel, as well as the Hilton-affiliated DoubleTree Inn in San Diego, and a Country Suites near Charlotte.

The Park Inn was built as an upscale Radisson hotel in 1987 at a cost of $42 million. It soon ran into financial troubles, and in 2006 it was rebranded as a midscale Park Inn, part of the Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, which also owns Radisson. While keeping its Park Inn affiliation, the hotel was sold last fall to a group of Chinese investors for $3 million, about 7 percent of the original cost.

“I told the owners, ‘You’ve got yourself a fixer-up. Now, you’ve got to fix it up,’” Mr. Carlson said.

The Park Inn was built as an upscale Radisson hotel in 1987 at a cost of $42 million. It soon ran into financial troubles, and in 2006 it was rebranded as a midscale Park Inn.
The Park Inn was built as an upscale Radisson hotel in 1987 at a cost of $42 million. It soon ran into financial troubles, and in 2006 it was rebranded as a midscale Park Inn.
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The total cost of the renovations is not yet known, “but it will be a lot,” he said.

The changes he envisions cover every aspect of the business, from a spruced-up entrance with electronic doors that open automatically -- always a boon to people with luggage -- to professional-looking uniforms worn by the clerks at the front desk. The towels and sheets will be thicker, the plumbing will be improved, and the corridor carpets, which are starting to look worn, will be replaced.

“I don’t want to work in a place or represent a place that is embarrassing,” Mr. Carlson said.

Most major hotels undergo renovations every six or seven years, he said. In some respects, the renovations at the Park Inn will be like the major overhaul completed in late 2008 at what is now the Grand Plaza hotel in downtown Toledo. That hotel’s general manager, Jim Koen, said the renovations there were wide-ranging and cost $12 million.

At the Park Inn, the Internet service will be improved, increasing the speed. Members of the Carlson chain’s rewards program will receive even faster Internet service, as will people in the meeting rooms. New furniture will be installed -- larger desks, better chairs -- and guest bathrooms will be updated with brighter lighting and better amenities. Mr. Carlson said he is looking into the possibility of having glasses in the bathrooms instead of plastic cups, but they are less convenient and have to be run through a dishwasher after every use.

The hotel is in negotiations to provide a better selection of television stations, and one of the most common complaints in online reviews, the old-fashioned TVs, will be addressed with new, flat-screen televisions. Refrigerators and microwaves will be put in all rooms, and new artwork, possibly by local artists, will be hung in the public spaces.

The hotel’s bigger rooms will also see improvements. The top-floor Presidential Suite, which has commanding views of the city and the Maumee River, will be modernized (“It’s very 1980s. They ought to pipe in A Flock of Seagulls,” he said, citing a popular band of the era). And the suites, which are on the hotel’s corners, will receive an upgrade in amenities, possibly including such items as bathrobes in the rooms.

The hotel stands at 366 rooms now, but perhaps 75 to 100 of them will be lost during the renovations when as many as three of the hotel’s floors are turned into offices. Some of these offices, Mr. Carlson said, may be used by what he called international companies.

“It’s an American hotel,” he said, “but like the U.S. government, we have Chinese investors.”

Contact Daniel Neman at: dneman@theblade.com or 419-724-6155.



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