Downtown Oklahoma City hotel opens, finally
After six years of delays prompted by a change in the location of the city's future convention center, the Fairfield Inn and Suites opened Wednesday afternoon with one guest already set to stay for the night.
The hotel is still in the middle of a construction zone that consists of the convention center, the 17-story Omni Hotel and a city garage. But overall, owner Andy Patel and his son Anish say they are excited at what's to come in the emerging convention district.
Andy Patel, sitting in the new hotel’s lobby, recalled how he first started the project in 2013 when he bought empty land and an abandoned warehouse along E.K. Gaylord and SW 5 to build a five-story, 110-room Fairfield Inn.
The plan involved some risk as the surrounding area was sketchy at best. Scissortail Park was set to be built two blocks west, and the convention center was being designed for the former Fred Jones dealership property between the future park and the Myriad Gardens.
With designs almost complete and site cleared, the city’s site for the convention center changed to the east side of the park. Patel suddenly faced losing his land in an eminent domain action.
“I had a lot of mixed feelings,” Patel. “People were telling me I would lose the site in eminent domain. I went to talk to the right people.”
One of his first visits was with Cathy O’Connor at The Alliance for Economic Development for Oklahoma City (and director of the Urban Renewal Authority).
“I explained to her my vision with or without the convention center next,” Patel said. “And from there, Cathy understood it very well. And they trusted me.”
A land swap was arranged with Patel getting a site between SW 4 and SW 5 between the convention center and E.K. Gaylord. The deal also assured him he will likely be the only hotel owner outside of the Omni with such proximity to the convention center.
The early bet on the area that was known as Core to Shore, and now as Park Union, paid off. But Patel insists it was always a good bet, even if the area that surrounded his first site was dark and considered dangerous at night. He believed the area eventually would develop, but not as rapidly as it has with the Omni and convention center.
“We’re downtown, we’re near the Capitol, we’re right off the main exit to downtown from Interstate 40. It’s close to corporate offices, Chesapeake Energy Arena,” Patel said. “It was a good opportunity.”
With the swap, Patel increased the room count to 133, doubled up on the designs for the lobby (including marble in the lobby), bedding and amenities.
The exterior design was significantly improved, as well.
But Patel started construction knowing he would face challenges. He credits architects with GSB, a partner with Populous on the convention center, and staff with the Alliance with easing those challenges.
“We set our bar high knowing it was going to be tough. I decided to just face it and move on,” Patel said. “But now, I can say all the contractors working in this area coordinated really well.”
The hotel is technically rated as a select service, but Anish Patel notes amenities are above select service standards but not quite full service.
“We have a full service bar with a full selection of cocktails and drinks,” Anish Patel said. “We have meeting rooms, our guest rooms are custom designed.”
The Patels were prepared to have no guests Wednesday night. The reservations system wasn’t allowed to go live until the hotel passed Marriott inspections.
“We opened by noon, and we already have a guest coming in, so that will be a special guest,” Anish Patel said. “ We have several more coming in tomorrow. So we’re excited. And this weekend, we so far have 35.”