Arts & Entertainment and Travel & Tourism

Downtown welcomes new Hotel District

Rebranding of 3 square blocks designed to catch attention of meeting and convention planners.

May 31, 2019
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Grand Rapids leaders have carved out 3 square blocks downtown as the designated Hotel District.

AHC+Hospitality has established the district as a collaborative between hoteliers, restaurants and local businesses, with endorsements by Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss and Experience Grand Rapids, Kent County’s tourism marketing arm.

The Hotel District is bounded by I-196 and Fulton Street to the north and south, and Division Avenue and US-131 to the east and west.

Located steps from the Van Andel Arena and DeVos Convention Center, the district contains more than 1,850 hotel rooms, nearly all of which are accessible year-round via climate-controlled skywalks.

Partner hotels within the district include: Homewood Suites by Hilton Grand Rapids; Holiday Inn Grand Rapids Downtown; Hyatt Place Grand Rapids/Downtown; Amway Grand Plaza, a Curio Collection by Hilton; JW Marriott Grand Rapids; AC Hotel Grand Rapids Downtown; Courtyard Grand Rapids Downtown by Marriott; and CityFlatsHotel.

Over the past 20 years, the number of hotel rooms has more than doubled within these 3 square blocks.

“Anticipating future growth within the burgeoning city center, branding the Hotel District reinforces its appeal to meeting and event planners, leisure travelers and locals by encapsulating its dynamic mix of some of the city’s renowned restaurants, bars, breweries, coffee shops, music venues and museums into a seamless, walkable experience,” said Doug Small, president and CEO of Experience Grand Rapids.

Bolstered by the upcoming openings of AC Hotel Grand Rapids Downtown and Hyatt Place Grand Rapids/Downtown, the initiative is meant to cement the district as a “destination for business and leisure travel,” AHC said.

Just as every other Grand Rapids neighborhood has evolved into an identity of its own, this downtown area and its activities should be recognized for its own personality, said George Aquino, vice president and managing director for AHC+Hospitality, which owns or manages most of the district’s hotels, including the Amway Grand Plaza and JW Marriott Grand Rapids.

“As downtown Grand Rapids grows, we want to distinguish each neighborhood,” Aquino said.

While people typically know what types of amenities are available on the West Side or in Cherry Hill, Aquino said the district will be presented as a more upscale neighborhood of the city — “the place for cocktails in Beer City.”

The Hotel District contains numerous restaurants; five of the city’s top museums: Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, Grand Rapids African American Museum and Archives, Grand Rapids Art Museum, Grand Rapids Public Museum and Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts; and a schedule of festivals, concerts, food trucks and more at Rosa Parks Circle.

Aquino said AHC is rolling out a marketing campaign, including billboards this week, as well as print advertising, social media campaigns and ways member hotels can identify themselves as part of the district. They may also consider creating banners, similar to those in other area neighborhoods.

“This will be a good way for us to market another element of Grand Rapids,” Aquino said. “It will resonate with our visitors and convention-goers because it will show them where they need to be.”

He said the hope is the city and county will officially designate the district as its own neighborhood as it continues to develop.

Aquino said a city’s neighborhoods — including those in Grand Rapids, such as what came to be known as the Arena District — tend to evolve on their own based on public activity and perception, so the hope is residents and visitors recognize and acknowledge the area’s uniqueness.

“The Hotel District is a tremendous opportunity to bring renewed attention and energy to the downtown core and elevate all the destination has to offer,” Bliss said.

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