One of Boise’s oldest hotels will get a $10 million makeover and new branding as an upscale hotel.
The seven-story Red Lion Downtowner, which opened in 1960 and was last remodeled in 2006, will see each of its 182 rooms renovated as it turns into a Delta by Marriott Downtowner.
Delta is a growing chain, founded in Canada and purchased by Marriott four years ago. It has several dozen hotels stretched across Canada and 28 in the U.S., though only four in the West.
“It’s going to be a complete gutting out to the studs,” Gurbir Sandhu, managing member of Ignite Hotels of Kennewick, Washington, said Wednesday in a phone interview. Ignite bought the Red Lion Downtowner last year.
Red Lion Hotels Corp. put the Downtowner and 10 other hotels in five Western states up for sale in October 2017 as it shed more of its struggling hotel-operations business and refocused on franchising.
The hotel, on Downtown Boise’s western edge at 1800 W. Fairview Ave., has long been a popular overnight spot for people seeking moderately priced accommodations.
The renovation will allow the hotel to charge premium rates. The Red Lion Downtowner offered a room Wednesday night with a king or two queen-size beds for $103.
“After the conversion, our rates will probably be positioned between the Riverside and the boutique hotels in the Downtown core,” Sandhu said.
The Riverside, at 2900 W. Chinden Blvd. in Garden City, had a room Wednesday with a king-size bed for $179. Hotel 43, a boutique hotel at 981 W. Grove St., had a room with two queen beds for $347. The Inn at 500 Capitol, a boutique hotel that was sold out Wednesday, had a king room on Thursday for $229.
Sandhu said renovation work is expected to begin in spring 2020 and finish two years later. The work will be done floor by floor, with other rooms available for guests during construction. It will cost an estimated $50,000 to $55,000 per room. The hotel will keep the Downtowner name and will be known as the Delta by Marriott Downtowner.
Guests should be pleased, he said.
“They’ll see a much more upscale environment,” Sandhu said. “It will be identical to a new construction job. They won’t be able to tell this is actually an older hotel.”
Sandhu’s company paid a combined $16.75 million last year for the Red Lion Downtowner and the Richland Red Lion in Washington. The Boise hotel sits on 3.6 acres and is valued at $6.5 million, according to the Ada County Assessor’s Office.
Ignite operates 10 hotels in Washington and Oregon. It also operated a Sleep Inn in Post Falls but sold that hotel last year, he said.
The company is spending $5 million to expand the former Fairbridge Inn Express in Spokane, Washington, which is being converted to a La Quinta Inn.
Sandhu, a graduate of the University of Washington in Seattle, said his best friend is from Boise and always talked up his hometown. Other college friends from Idaho were also complimentary.
Those conversations, Boise’s place on several national publications’ list of best cities to live, and Boise’s strong economic growth persuaded Sandhu to buy the Red Lion Downtowner.
Some of the aging electrical and plumbing systems, along with heating and cooling systems, will have to be replaced, but Sandhu said the building is sound. “Structurally, it’s in good shape,” he said.
Sandhu said he wasn’t worried by the four new hotels that have opened Downtown in the past two years, with a fifth, a Home2Suites, under construction at 502 W. Front St. The four hotels added 621 rooms, but demand remains strong.
He also expects the hotel will see more weekday business travelers who are loyal to the Marriott brand.
“We’ll be a good option for someone who’s looking to host a conference in Boise but does not need the size or cannot afford the expense of the city convention center,” he said.
With the added amenities and attention an upscale hotel provides, Sandhu said the Downtowner will require additional employees. He expects the workforce to increase from 70 employees currently to at least 80 when the renovation is completed.