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Jax Daily Record Wednesday, Mar. 8, 200612:00 PM EST

Changes for Southbank hotels

by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

by Max Marbut

Staff Writer

Sleeping or having a meeting at a hotel on the Southbank is going through a major transformation.

The Hilton Jacksonville Riverfront will become the Crowne Plaza Jacksonville Riverfront March 31. The hotel opened in 1964 and has been managed by MHI Hospitality Corporation since 1996. It was purchased by the company for $22 million last year.

A $3 million renovation has been completed for the conversion to the Crowne Plaza brand, including new wall and floor coverings in guest rooms and meeting rooms, new window treatments and upgraded bedding and vanity sinks and bathtubs. A new front entrance and a redesigned valet parking area are currently under construction.

Andrew Sims, MHI’s chief executive officer, said, “We have made a significant investment in the property because we believe in Jacksonville’s continued growth potential.”

A few blocks down Prudential Drive, the Radisson Riverwalk will become part of Wyndham Hotels and Resorts April 12.

Senior Sales Manager Ray Phillips said the sleeping rooms, meeting rooms, lobby and the exterior of the building are all being renovated.

“The loading dock is full of new beds and fixtures,” he said.

Phillips added that the ownership of the property has not changed and that, “They decided to upgrade the hotel.”

John Reyes, president & CEO of the Jacksonville & the Beaches Convention and Visitors Bureau, said he thinks the new brands will be a big advantage for the city and the CVB.

“I think it’s great. The Hyatt has been a great addition to Jacksonville and the Crowne Plaza and the Wyndham also have great sales forces,” said Reyes. ”We need this kind of brand recognition for Jacksonville. They’re aggressive and assertive and they’re going to help get the word out about Jacksonville. We’re aggressive (about promoting Jacksonville) and when you have other players on your team, it’s an advantage.”

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