Upscale New Hotel Hits a Homerun with Community

by Joan D. Bennett
Summer 2006 -
Enjoying a cold drink and fine cuisine on an umbrella-lined patio in centerfield during a minor league baseball game may be a fantasy for some, but it is a reality now for residents in greater Manchester with the recent opening of the Hilton Garden Inn. The 125-room upscale hotel, situated at the southern end of the city’s historic Millyard, boasts a number of unique features that are attracting guests and visitors.

The views are an initial draw. On the south side, the six-story hotel provides a commanding view of the 6,500-seat Stadium, home of the New Hampshire Fisher Cats Double A baseball team, with home plate just 430 feet away. To the west, the Merrimack River surges past the stadium, with the distant Uncanoonuc Mountains providing a dramatic late-day backdrop, while the north affords excellent views of the revitalized Millyard and downtown Manchester skyline.

The hotel itself is also creating a great deal of interest. “It’s an architectural gem and a real showpiece for Manchester,” says Paul Borek, the city’s economic development director. “I wouldn’t be surprised if it wins an architectural award.”

The building’s old-style brick, mansard-roofed Clock Tower, and iron fencing on the top of the tower and two-story entry Pavilion suggest an earlier era when Manchester’s mills were bustling during the Industrial Revolution. The iron corbelling of the city crook on the entry’s porte cocher mirrors arches once found across the city’s main streets, and which have been replicated on downtown streets in recent years.

A fusion of old and new
“From the very beginning we wanted to design a building that transitioned the historic Millyard into the more contemporary architecture of the stadium and the townhouses being built beyond it,” notes David Roedel, a partner of Roedel Companies LLC, the owner, construction manager and operator of the hotel. The group focused on creating a structure that looks like a mill building, while adding some contemporary elements, such as box bay glass windows, which provide excellent views.

“We’ve had people say, ‘It looks like it’s been here a long time,’ or ‘It looks to be a renovated mill building,’” adds Roedel. “Both are very complimentary.”

The historic Millyard was a driving force for the design of the project, explains Rolf Biggers, of BMA Architectural Group in Amherst, N.H. “We wanted a fusion between the old and new, of where the Millyard meets the new part of Manchester.” He points out the black wrought iron and green glass box bay windows as examples.

“We don’t want people to notice this fusion,” he adds. “We just want them to feel it.” His group studied the position of the building with 3-D computer models from numerous vantage points, incorporating “all the nuances and details to make sure it settled in just right.”

Becoming Manchester’s hotel
When David Roedel read in the local newspaper in 2002 about plans for a minor league baseball stadium along the river, with a hotel planned as part of the 26-acre redevelopment project, he wanted his family’s company to be part of it. In the hotel business since 1968, first under the Chalet Susse International flag, they know the industry.

He had seen downtown Manchester change after the Verizon Wireless Arena opened in the fall of 2001. The Millyard was experiencing a rebirth with hundreds of businesses setting up shop in the former mill buildings, and the expanded Manchester Airport gave business travelers increased access to the area.

“With all the things we saw happening in downtown Manchester, we were convinced an upscale hotel downtown was the next step,” remembers Roedel, who notes that a hotel had not been built downtown in over 20 years.

“We pride ourselves on finding the best real estate and designing the best hotel for the marketplace, but because we also operate hotels, we understand that the customer is king.” He says that providing exceptional service, from the front desk to food to housekeeping is critical. “To be a member of our staff, you have to be able to bring a smile to people’s faces. Delivering world-class service is the most important thing.”

Every community has a hotel where people tend to gather, he says. “We would like to prove ourselves and become the community center. We have the facilities, customer service and location to become Manchester’s hotel.”

Elegance - from furnishings to dining
As guests enter the hotel into the dramatic Pavilion, they are greeted by an eclectic mix of styles that suggest both contemporary and old-style elegance and comfort. Four large cherry pillars center the space and support an airy vaulted ceiling, featuring a large alabaster chandelier with iron scrollwork.

Wood floors and richly patterned carpet separate the 55-seat Pavilion restaurant and bar area on one side of the open lobby from a reception area of velvet, silk and leather furnishings surrounding a polished-granite and wood-paneled fireplace, complete with a plasma television.

Hotel guests can check in with hotel staff at the granite and cherry-paneled reception desk, or use a registration kiosk for automated check-in. A 24-hour Pavilion Pantry provides guests with a variety of convenience items.

The Pavilion Restaurant offers a full breakfast and bistro-style dining in the evening seven days a week, to both hotel guests and area residents and visitors.

“There’s an ambience here, with dimmed lighting and soft music that is perfect for elegant dining,” says Tony Marsilio, director of food and beverage operations for Hilton Garden Inn Hotels. “We have an executive chef here, much like a full-service hotel, and a sous chef, which you don’t find in the mid-scale market. This property has really, really made an effort to stand out. It’s special and is now the benchmark for our hotels.”

Special touches — from a stunning fresh floral arrangement in the lobby to fine wood furniture and paneling, sumptuous fabrics and notable local artwork — set the hotel apart.

“This hotel is on par with an upscale, five-star hotel in southern California or Paris,” claims Robin Comstock, president of the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, who has traveled extensively around the world. “It is urban, chic and sophisticated. The quality of every single detail is unparalleled in this area.”

Enjoying America’s favorite pastime
Beyond the hotel reception desk and elevators, a rear lobby opens out on to the 250-seat Patio overlooking the baseball stadium. With full bar and dinner service, the Patio is quickly becoming a favorite spot for hotel guests and area residents on game days and on other evenings during the season.

Even when a game isn’t being played, a 50-square foot baseball mural by noted local artist Jim Burke in the rear lobby makes visitors feel like they are at a ball game. Painted from a vantage point behind home plate, Burke’s painting captures a nostalgic view of baseball in an earlier era, with the hotel in the outfield and downtown Manchester in the distance — a fusion of old and new. Roedel Companies commissioned the piece by Burke, who illustrated the highly acclaimed book, Take Me Out to the Ball Game, a look at old-time baseball.

Just off the Patio and back lobby are three meeting rooms, in demand for their inspiring views of the ballpark. “When you’re sitting there in a business meeting and looking out, it’s like a Field of Dreams setting,” says Elias “Skip” Ashooh, a local businessman and economic development proponent. “This hotel is a new level in the way to stay here in town.”

The Manchester Room, an executive board room with cherry millwork, a granite fireplace and wet bar, offers room for 20 people at a conference table or theatre-style seating, with state-of-the-art presentation technology, a 42-inch plasma TV and comfortable lounge seating. Two smaller hospitality suites, the Park View and Tower Suites, have similar amenities and also feature a full catering menu for meetings.

Rooms with a view
Guest rooms on each of the hotel’s six floors feature excellent views of the ballpark or the city’s skyline and are as elegantly appointed as the common areas. Each room features a hospitality center and furniture with cherry and granite accents, and a flat-panel high definition television. Artwork by area artists depicts local landmarks.

When they want to get some work done, guests can take advantage of complementary wired and wireless Internet access in their room, a cherry desk and Herman Miller Mirra™ ergonomic desk chair. The hotel’s first-floor business center also has a dedicated computer, copier, fax machine and shipping services.

Comfort is king as the Garden Sleep System™ includes comfortable king-size beds that automatically adjust to the contour of a person’s body and its weight. Special sheepskin mattress covers help keep guests cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

The hotel’s five Clock Tower suites and four two-room suites deliver an all-star experience, with a spacious living area overlooking the ballpark, a wet bar and bar seating, a pull-out sofa and 32-inch flat-screen television. The suites provide a perfect setting for watching a game or just relaxing at the end of the day.

An elegantly designed indoor pool with a dramatic vaulted ceiling, four-season outdoor hot tub overlooking the ballpark, and an exercise room allow guests to unwind after a busy day.

With a minor league baseball park in the hotel’s backyard and an upscale guest experience throughout, the new Hilton Garden Inn is already hitting homeruns with fans in the greater Manchester community.

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