​It’s here College Park’s first new hotel in decades opens to the public

Rebecca Cooper
Washington Business Journal

The Hotel at the University of Maryland will accept its first guests Friday — a bit behind schedule, but just a week after the busy NCAA football season started.

It’s opening will mark the first new, full-service hotel to open in the city in decades — since the College Park Marriott Hotel and Conference Center, which opened on campus in 1963.

Southern Management, based in Vienna, chose not to put a national brand on the $189 million hotel, something that raised eyebrows among some observers. But the company’s experience operating an independent hotel in an even less trafficked area, near the Arundel Mills Mall, gave it confidence that going independent was the right move, said general manager Jeff Makhlouf.

“When we opened up The Hotel at Arundel Preserve, people thought we were crazy to open an independent, boutique hotel. It’s not a destination. It’s not a prime market,” Makhlouf said. “But it turned out the market was hungry for such a product.”

The Hotel at Arundel Preserve had hoped to be at an occupancy in the 70 percent range within a three-year time frame; instead, it reached that milestone after year one. In year two, it achieved occupancy in the 80 percent range.

Southern has the same goal for the new College Park hotel — 80 percent or more in three years — with 65 percent occupancy by the end of year one.

“The way the industry is trending, millennials and all savvy travelers are looking for that unique experience. People want something new,” Makhlouf said. “With this location in close proximity to D.C., I’m not worried about not being under a brand.”

Rooms that average 450 square feet start at $189 per night. The company expects more than half its room-nights to come from group bookings.

Southern Management is putting a flag on another hotel it’s building just down the road in College Park, a Cambria Hotel & Suites expected to open in spring 2018 — something CEO David Hillman attributed in the past to not wanting to over-extend his own team by opening two hotels so close together.

And the 297-room Hotel at University of Maryland property does employ many — 400 to be exact — given it’s a full-service hotel and has 43,000 square feet of event space along with a pool and Elizabeth Arden Red Door spa.

There are also four restaurants, though those are leased to local restaurant owners: Kapnos Taverna from Mike Isabella Concepts — which will open in late September or early October — Bagels & Grinds, Potomac Pizza and Old Maryland Grill, an American restaurant from Mike Franklin of Franklin’s restaurant and microbrewery in Hyattsville.

Old Maryland Grill will handle the restaurant’s main lobby bar, as well as all room service for the hotel. Also among the amenities? The potential to get Potomac Pizza delivered to your room.

The $180 million property has a large rooftop event space — there are already more than 15 weddings booked for the next year — as well as a second floor ballroom with room for 750 people seated. There are three outdoor terraces, including a 5,000-square-foot terrace on the roof.

For Makhlouf, it’s hard to believe it’s finally done. After opening the Arundel hotel for Southern, he jumped to the College Park project, and remembers just seeing bare bones drawings on paper and having only a vague understanding of exactly where the hotel would be located.

“It’s amazing, from that day to today, to see it all in action, and to be ready to welcome the first guests,” he said.

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