By Kalea Hall
The DoubleTree by Hilton hotel in downtown Youngstown is opening at the end of March, officials say.
The delays in opening are over, and developer Dominic Marchionda’s indictment isn’t expected to affect the opening of downtown’s first hotel since the Voyager Motor Inn closed in 1974.
“I’m very happy,” Marchionda said. “It’s been very challenging to deal with some of the historical elements in the hotel. We are trying to keep some things a surprise.”
Marchionda voluntarily resigned as manager of the company connected to the hotel project in November after he was indicted by a Mahoning County grand jury on 102 criminal counts, including theft, tampering with records and laundering. The court records documented alleged abuse of state, federal and city funds Marchionda received for the Flats at Wick, Erie Terminal Place and Wick Tower projects, but do not mention the hotel project.
Despite lacking the “manager” title, Marchionda says he is still in management.
George Pantelidis of Pan Brothers Associates Inc., a New York City-based real-estate services firm that is partnered with Marchionda’s NYO Property Group to develop the hotel, is now manager of Youngstown Stambaugh Holdings.
The Stambaugh Building is a 12-story, neoclassical revival building that opened in 1907. The process of revamping it into a modernized luxury hotel hasn’t been easy or cheap – the price tag for the hotel project is more than $30 million. Plans for the hotel first were unveiled in November 2014 with an opening date of June 2016.
“It’s been definitely challenging at times, but very rewarding at the same time,” Marchionda said.
The hotel is filled with marble from the first floor to the top that will be restored, along with the terra cotta, the copper corners outside the building and the elevators. The inside of the building has hints of history throughout it, such as a U.S. Mail drop that runs alongside the elevator.
The plaza landscaping in front of the building was recently redone and unveiled.
When guests enter, the first floor will be where restaurants, a coffee shop and a bank will be located. One restaurant will be YOSTERIA owned by Alex Zordich, a Youngstown native. YOSTERIA will serve hand-crafted wine, bread and regional Italian food.
Branch Street Coffee Roasters of Boardman will be the hotel’s coffee shop.
“To be a part of the revitalization of downtown is something we have strived for and something we have always wanted,” said Matt Campbell, who owns Branch Street with his wife, Kristin. “It’s a dream come true for us.”
The Boardman Branch Street location is “thriving” and will remain where the coffee is roasted, Campbell said. He hopes the Youngstown shop will give Branch Street more exposure.
“The Youngstown location will be a showcase for us,” Campbell said. “To have people from outside of the area drink our coffee is a step forward for us.”
Chemical Bank will be the hotel’s bank, Marchionda said. Bank officials did not have a comment on its location there.
On the second floor, guests will check in, lounge and have meetings. A small conference space on this floor is ample for a meeting of up to 60 people.
Nine floors are home to 124 rooms. The 12th floor is a ballroom/meeting space that can be divided into smaller spaces with total accommodation of up to 180. The 12th-floor space comes with a jaw-dropping view of Youngstown that goes up Market Street at one end and up Wick Avenue to Youngstown State University at the other.
A rooftop bar will open later this year.
At this point, the hotel is in the “furniture stage,” Marchionda said.
“We are getting very close to completion,” Marchionda said. “We are just doing the finishing touches. It’s incredibly beautiful and incredibly exciting to see it.”
SURVIVE AND THRIVE
Amy Liakaris, director of sales of the hotel, and Steve Mitchell, general manager of the hotel, were recently hired to start marketing the facility.
“It’s something that Youngstown definitely needed,” Liakaris said. “We are right in the heart of it all.”
Group inquiries for reservations at the hotel are being taken now, and interest has been high. Liakaris and Mitchell are interviewing candidates for 50 to 60 positions at the front desk, in housekeeping and food service.
The hotel will cater to both leisure and business.
To succeed, the hotel will work with local businesses, YSU and the entertainment sector here.
Blocks from the hotel is the Covelli Centre where concerts and conventions take place.
Greg Bartholomew, owner of All-American Comics and Cards in Warren and Boardman, will have Youngstown Comic Con for the second year in a row at the Covelli Centre in July. Last year, more than 4,000 attended the two-day convention, many from out of the area.
Bartholomew had to shuttle the convention guests to and from a Boardman hotel last year.
“That was one amenity that the downtown was missing, and I am glad it’s there now,” he said of the hotel. “I am excited because it is another small piece to the puzzle of bringing people downtown. It will make things on me much easier.”
Alan Silver, Ohio University assistant professor of hospitality and tourism and an economic consultant for Nathan Associates, said the newness of the hotel and its historic charm will help it.
Marketing, Silver said, is essential for a hotel’s survival and ability to thrive.
“It’s really a plus for the community, and now the challenge begins for them,” Silver said of the hotel opening. “In the long run, you have to maintain the occupancy rate and the highest daily rate you can get.”