Remaking a Classic

Just about the only walls untouched during the renovations at the legendary Hilton Anatole Hotel were the two 12-foot pieces of the Berlin Wall standing outside in the courtyard.

The Dallas landmark, known for its unique art collection, capped an extensive multi-year, multi-phase transformation that cost over $100 million, just in time for next year's 30th anniversary.

The last phase, a $57-million renovation of the property's meeting space, public areas and the 700 Tower guestrooms, was completed in February.

The inspiration throughout the redesign was the hotel's Asian art, part of an extensive collection of more than 1,000 pieces valued at upwards of $100 million. Highlights include the 6×9-foot canvas oil painting, Nana, by Russian G. Marcel Suchorowsky, that hangs behind the bar in the hotel's signature 27th floor restaurant, named after the painting; the life-size carved elephants that remain from the 1984 Republican National Convention; more than 40 pieces of Wedgwood Porcelain; and the two painted segments of the Berlin Wall.

“The challenge was to bring it to a contemporary look without losing its traditional feel,” says Tyler McDonald, the hotel's director of sales and marketing. “The designer really brought all the different elements together in a common thread through the whole property. The core is the Asian art and it connects the entire hotel together.”

Subtle Asian influences were extended into the renovations, including a color palette featuring bold, yet earthy tones. The 700 Tower guestrooms feature custom-designed carpet exclusive to the Anatole and artwork highlighted by framed, hand-painted Asian fabrics. The rooms also include the Hilton Serenity Collection of bedding, new custom closets with in-room safes, hardwood and black lacquer finishes, couches in the living areas and large work desks with lamps and ergonomic desk chairs.

The bathrooms feature new stainless-steel fixtures, marble floors, granite countertops, separate sinks with vanities, two large framed mirrors and an oversized stone and glass shower.

“Working with our onsite team and design firm, Portfolio Associates, we are creating the look and feel of guestrooms normally found in a luxury boutique hotel while maintaining sizeable space, functionality and conveniences that are synonymous with the Anatole,” McDonald says.

The trick was reinventing the Anatole in a way that wouldn't disconnect it from guests' fond memories of a property that has hosted a birthday party for Princess Stephanie of Monaco, the premiere of “The Natural” with Robert Redford, and was (and still is) a favorite spot for many presidents and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

“Many guests have hosted or attended one-of-a-kind events at the hotel and a number of Dallasites have experienced life's most memorable firsts such as anniversaries, engagements and birthdays,” says Marc L. Messina, the Anatole's general manager. “The renovations allow the hotel to evolve without losing the timeless aspect that people hold close to their hearts.”

One bride who was recently married there said many of her guests were amazed at the reinvention of the hotel.

The former 1,000-square-foot Stemmons Auditorium, which was set below ground level, became the 8,300-square-foot Stemmons Ballroom, which is divisible into four separate rooms. The more flexible space features cherry hardwoods, rich, white-toned fabric wall treatments and custom carpets. The Atrium pre-function area, next to the ballroom, adds 9,800 more square feet of renovated meeting space with stunning light features and Asian art offerings surrounded by bamboo plantings and Asian gardens.

The Chantilly Ballroom, Grand Ballroom, 17 Atrium breakout rooms, nine Tower “M” ballrooms and meeting rooms and the eight Tower “Gem” meeting rooms were renovated as well.

The hotel didn't close through the extensive work, making McDonald's job all the more challenging.

“Communication was the key,” McDonald says. “Not only between each other, but with our customers coming in to make sure they were familiar with the fact this work was going on and that we were taking extra steps to make sure that it didn't hinder the purpose of their stay.”

Despite the obstacles, figuratively and at times literally with the construction crew, McDonald says it was well worth it as business has been very strong through the first quarter of this year. With more than 333,000 square feet of meeting space, it's no surprise that more than 75 percent of the Anatole's business comes from groups.

The latest renovations followed a $39-million project in 2006 that updated all 900 Atrium guestrooms, the 25th-floor Executive Lounge, the Wedgwood Ballroom and Verandah Club & Spa, along with adding the chic Gossip bar.

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