NORMAL — Normal officials are optimistic about the new owner of a crucial piece of uptown.
"I'm confident Atrium, based on what we know about them and the hotels they run, will do a great job, and it's going to be seamless," said Normal City Council member Jeff Fritzen of Atrium Hospitality, a partner of JD Holdings, the New York firm buying the uptown Marriott Hotel and Conference Center.
"I would add excitement, once I did a little due diligence to find out who Atrium was and how successful they are," agreed member Kevin McCarthy. "I was thrilled that, if it's going to change hands, it's going to a company with a good record that can continue the same feel and vibe our uptown has."
City Manager Pam Reece said she expects the new owners to take over in early May. She said this is the first time the town has dealt with Atrium — an Alpharetta, Ga., company with 49 properties in 26 states, including Marriott, Hilton and Intercontinental hotels — but she's pleased so far.
"We don't have any list right now in terms of improvements that are necessary, (but) when the new owner comes in they can look at it, maybe with a critical eye, and see if there's ways to continue to improve," said Reece. "From a daily customer's perspective, there should be no change."
John Q. Hammons Hotels and Resorts built the Marriott over more than two years and opened the hotel in 2009. JD Holdings has taken on several Hammons properties after the Springfield, Mo., company filed for bankruptcy.
John Q. Hammons, the company's founder, helped build the 201 Broadway Ave. hotel personally. He died in 2013.
As part of the sale, the new ownership also will take on agreements with the town giving them an almost-50-year lease on the attached conference center and an equal amount of time to access the attached parking deck, both of which are owned by the town. The council approved moving those arrangements to the new owner Monday night.
The town spent $3 million and roughly three years in acquiring the property and demolishing the existing buildings to provide a clean construction site for Hammons. The hotel cost $55 million.
The town paid $12.5 million for the conference center and $6.1 million for the parking deck and hotel.
Fritzen presided over Monday's meeting because Mayor Chris Koos is on a leave of absence for surgery to address prostate cancer. Reece said Koos is recovering well from the April 4 procedure and could return in a week.
In other business, the council approved:
• A liquor license for Swingers Grille at 1304 Cross Creek Drive. The restaurant closed in January but will open under new ownership, said Reece.
• A new emergency siren in the uptown area. Reece said the siren, which was added after a study found a gap in the existing warning system, will help officials get the message out during uptown events.