Anatomy of a Development: Four Points and Darpan a Perfect Fit

Four Points the right choice for Darpan Management

The paved parking lot in front of the four-story hotel is packed with close to 40 vehicles, but the majority are oversized pickup trucks, a good clue their drivers aren't your typical upscale hotel guests. The large red dumpsters are another sign, but the workers wearing hard hats are the dead giveaway. Although the exterior could pass for complete, the Four Points by Sheraton Columbus-Airport is still a work in progress.

It's Cinco de Mayo, but the hotel is abuzz for a completely different reason. There's the usual crew of 30 workers from Miles-McClellan Construction Company, but there's also about the same number of well-dressed men and women roaming the hotel.

Victor Shah and Paul Patel, two of the three ownership partners, are here, along with Dan Shah, Victor's son and the region manager for Darpan Management, the group's operations company. Dan was here the night before putting the finishing touches on the model room, the reason for this special gathering. Lars Rosenquist, director of project management for Starwood and Four Points, is making his second visit. It's standard procedure for Starwood to make three site visits, but this project has drawn greater scrutiny since it will be one of the first of the brand's new prototypes to open. Rosenquist; Melynda Mannix, associate director of global brand design; and John Weiss, junior designer for Four Points, arrived the night before and Brian McGuinness, Starwood's global brand leader for Aloft, Element and Four Points, touched down this morning at 10:30. Also in attendance are most of the other key players, from architect Dave Pontia to Matt McClellan, president of the construction company, to the hotel's newly hired general manager, Heather Laemmle, and director of sales, Laurie Hess. “This is a big deal,” Dan Shah explained a couple weeks before. McGuinness normally doesn't make site visits, but he's here today to get a sneak peek at the new look of Four Points.

The Brand

Shah and his group were looking for an upscale business-traveler friendly brand for their location two miles from the Columbus airport. They had already proven adept at owning and operating economy and midscale brands (a Days Inn, a Wingate and two Country Inn & Suites) and were ready to take the next step. The decision came down to Four Points, Hotel Indigo and Hyatt Place.

“Dan didn't really have a wrong choice,” says Jamey Cua, a senior director of development for Starwood who sells all seven of the company's franchised brands across nine Midwest states. “They would have been successful with any brand they chose. My objective was to give enough compelling reasons why Four Points was a better choice. If you show these operating numbers to potential developers, they speak for themselves.”

Four Points had a system-wide average occupancy of 63.3 percent last year, an ADR of $118.91 and RevPAR was $75.22. Starwood and its partners have invested more than a billion dollars in the brand's rejuvenation the past five years, resulting in a 70-percent turnover of the portfolio. There are now 135 properties in 22 countries and the brand is seeing its largest pipeline in history, with 20 expected to open this year alone. “The limited footprint means an enormous upside for developers and Starwood,” Cua says. “That's not a negative at all.”

Shah cites two other reasons for the choice: reservations contribution (among Starwood's top brands at 50 percent) and the training and backing that comes with Starwood. Once the decision was made, he says there was very little negotiation with the franchise contract, which Cua says is typical with Starwood's brands. The one negotiated aspect was an area of protection. Shah and Cua drove around the airport to outline a protected territory. “They are very selective on picking and approving a site and the brand that goes there,” Shah says. “They don't want to build another Four Points three miles down the road.”

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