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April 4, 2013

Courtyard hotel opens on Southside

By Richard Whitby
The Daily Star

---- — The open lobby of the new Courtyard by Marriott was buzzing with activity Wednesday morning, just hours before the hotel began accepting its first guests.

Food was being brought in for an employee luncheon, contractors were putting the finishing touches on several fixtures, such as an outdoor fire pit, and workers were making sure everything else was working.

“The business traveler has changed over the last 30 years,” sales manager Todd Heyn said. “They used to just go into their room, do their work and then go home. They were a business traveler. That’s how they defined themselves.”

“Now they’re a person who does business on the road,” he said.

That change in attitude is what was behind the design of the Courtyard’s lobby, where its restaurant extends off to one side, just across the mail aisle from the check-in stations, which forgo the usual wide countertop for a lectern design that allows clerks to come out from behind the stations to show guests the hotel’s features.

Many of those features open onto the lobby — without walls or doors separating them, just “implied” divisions, Heyn said.

The standout among those features is a 55-inch interactive touch screen that Heyn calls the “go board.” The screen provides a wealth of information aimed at business travelers, such as weather forecasts for destination cities, information about local events and places to visit — including maps — and descriptions of hotel amenities.

Nearby is a dedicated boarding-pass terminal that allows travelers nearly instant access to airline websites and produces boarding passes on its own printer.

There’s also a business center with two computers and a printer, and power outlets are at nearly every location where one might want to use a laptop.

“We’re the antithesis of an airport, where everybody is crowded around that one outlet on the wall to plug in their laptop,” Heyn said.

All of this is “designed to keep our guests a little bit longer, or bring them back for a return stay,” Heyn said.

The restaurant, called The Bistro, serves breakfast and dinner, Heyn said, and is open to the public, not just guests. 

“Down the road, we’re hoping to open for lunch, assuming the demand is there,” he said.

It also serves Starbucks products, such as coffee, espresso and cappuccino, although it’s not a full-service outlet for the chain.  

Most of the rooms in the 95-room hotel have two queen-sized beds. A few have single king-sized beds, and the hotel has two, two-room suites. All of the rooms have refrigerators, microwave ovens, coffeemakers and network ports for guests who are unable to use a Wi-Fi connection.

Downstairs, a short walk from the lobby are a 281-square-foot conference and event room, a fitness center with free weights and two treadmills and an indoor pool area that complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The hotel is at 116 Courtyard Drive, which is essentially an extension of the James F. Lettis Highway on the south side of state Route 23. Reservations can be made through Internet booking sites, the Marriott website or by calling the hotel at 432-2200.