A hotel under construction on a historic corner of Midtown has stayed on schedule, despite the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the economy and hospitality industry.
Noble Investment Group’s dual-branded hotel rises and will reach a height of 180 feet above the street level, or 14 stories, at the corner of Peachtree Street and Ponce de Leon Avenue.
We spoke with Ben Brunt, principal and executive vice president at Noble, about how the project has stayed on schedule and his forecast on the hospitality industry’s post-pandemic recovery.
About the Project: New Hotel Represents Fabric of Midtown
Noble’s hotel project is a unique development in Midtown for several reasons — it unites two prominent hotel brands for the first time, the developers worked in partnership with the City to perfect its design, and it will occupy a corner of a key historic intersection.
The hotel combines the Courtyard by Marriott and Element by Westin brands, with each brand’s room and suite design featuring a distinctive vibe. The Courtyard’s 158 rooms will have "smart, casual decor,” while the Element’s 124 suites will be nature-inspired spaces with fully-equipped kitchens and spa-inspired bathrooms.
Noble worked with the Department of City Planning to hone the hotel’s architecture to be in harmony with the intersection’s existing three historic buildings: The Fox Theatre, Georgian Terrace Hotel, and Ponce Condos. The project’s architect is Lindsay Pope Bradfield Clifford & Associates.
Noble broke ground on the hotel in June 2019, and work has continued at a steady pace even during the pandemic.
With fewer people on the roads, the project team has found it easier to get the necessary temporary road closures to bring in materials and finish the building on time. It will top out by the end of September 2020 and is slated to open July 1, 2021.
Bracing For a Slow Recovery
Founded in 1993, Noble is no stranger to the hotel business. The Atlanta-based company’s portfolio includes hotels across the country, including in Seattle, Washington, the Northeast, Florida, Tennessee, and South Carolina. In 2019, Noble opened another dual-branded hotel in Midtown, the AC Hotel Atlanta Midtown, and Moxy Atlanta Midtown.
But no hotel developer is immune to the pandemic’s effects. Occupancy rates nationally dipped to as low as 24.5 percent in April, and business travel, which typically accounts for a considerable portion of Atlanta travelers, has come to a near standstill.
“The challenges for corporate travel will remain in the short term,” Brunt said. “Midtown Atlanta as a market relies on corporate travel mid-week, and with a bulk of the business offices closed, that traveler is just temporarily gone from the market. Historically, Downtown demand related to special events, conventions, and sporting events compresses into Midtown and Buckhead – none of those events are happening right now.”
Business travel and travel for any event are expected to remain soft during 2020, Brunt said. Hotels will see guests vacationing with their families over the summer months, and the markets that stand to benefit the most from that type of demand are leisure-oriented markets.
“Hopefully, hotel room night demand moves at a measured increase from an occupancy standpoint into 2021 and 2022, and by the end of 2022, we’re back to where we were in terms of occupancy,” he said. “That’s what we’re forecasting unless something changes sooner, such as a vaccine or a therapeutic that completely changes the dynamic.”
The pandemic has caused hotel brands to rethink everything about the services they offer, from existing sanitation to food and beverage delivery.
“Pre-COVID, all of the processes and procedures the brands and managers had in place to properly clean a guest room would kill the virus,” Brunt said. “Now we want people to feel even more secure and comfortable, and we as an industry are at the forefront of new and enhanced cleanliness standards. That is one positive that has emerged from this.”