Wichita, Kan.—Jack DeBoer, hotel industry legend and innovator, has a new brand in the works that he hopes will combine the success of his extended-stay properties with a more upscale, boutique atmosphere. “We’re studying it,” said DeBoer, who is cautious about his newest brainchild, the Hotel at WaterWalk in Wichita, Kan. “The ribbon-cutting is on May 10, and we’re going to do a little testing before we get in front of ourselves,” he said, to address the idea he plans to take the new boutique concept national.
The Hotel at WaterWalk is a redesigned a Residence Inn property and boasts a clean, modern interior design by Wichita’s Interior Trends.
The WaterWalk mixed-use development broke ground in 2009. Local news reports say it has struggled at times to lure retail tenants and residents. DeBoer took over as the primary developer of the publicly and privately funded project in 2009.
On the lodging side, the development is expected to include a total of more than 1,000 guestrooms in order to make the area attractive to convention business. A 131-room Marriott Fairfield Inn and Suites is slated to open this summer. That property’s development is led by A.G. Holding’s president and CEO Jim Korroch.
Best known for launching the extended-stay segment with the apartment-style Residence Inn brand back in 1975, followed by Summerfield Suites, Candlewood Suites and Value Place, DeBoer is applying his trademark business acumen to the boutique segment.
“It clearly is an opportunity that we’re putting a lot of money into,” he said.
The Hotel at WaterWalk will feature modern design and furniture at a more affordable daily rate than similarly positioned properties. Rooms will also be available for longer periods of time for extended-stay guests, with amenities such as kitchens and fireplaces in select rooms.
DeBoer said he sees a major opportunity for the redevelopment of unprofitable hotels as either low-end or high-end properties.
“The WaterWalk is a boutique hotel, that’s the bottom line,” he said. “It’s very upscale; we’re not going to be in the middle. In this world we’re just under-demolished; maybe there’s a way to move properties into a different segment instead. We built four brands that are all very successful and I don’t want to screw it up with this one.”
The new project is a twist on the extended-stay format DeBoer’s Value Place brand is known for, and DeBoer said he is still tweaking the hotel’s amenities and service.
“It’s totally different from Value Place; it’s a totally different world,” he said. “The boutique world is doing OK and we’re going to do a lot of things that we’re testing to see if we’re right. Our ramp-up so far with what portions we have redone is very positive.”
Value Place update
For Value Place at large, DeBoer wants to continue his expansion across different markets around the United States.
“I still think there are many primary markets around the country,” he said. “We’re concentrated in the Southeast and central U.S., where we have strong growth. We’re going to do more of the same, in many visible locations. I’m feeling pretty good about it.”
Launched in 2003, Value Place has more 150 properties around the country and a strong relationship with franchisees, according to DeBoer.
“We have 49 franchisees who own at least one property, and we own 42 of these properties ourselves,” he said. “We have identified more than 1,000 locations [for expansion] across the country because we are in very diverse locations already.”
DeBoer plans to leverage his knowledge of the hotel industry as financing begins to return to hotel product around the country. He already has a significant number of commitments from developers for Value Place properties.
“We know a whole lot about where you need to be as the money returns-we will grow very rapidly,” DeBoer said. “We have more than 150 locations spoken and paid for, the deal and not the land, and we’re searching for capital. The cusp we’re on for growth is phenomenal.”
Despite his plans for extensive growth across each of his brands, DeBoer stressed the importance of staying true to the key elements that helped launch Value Place in 2003.