By Karen Welch — Senior Content Producer
Partners in the current Barfield Building resurrection include not only a developer managing the project, but also a hospitality management company and a brand, the developer said.
Amarillo’s most discussed downtown eyesore could be one of Marriott’s newest gems by late 2019, according Mark Brooks, the man helping to put the deal together.
Brooks is founder and principal of Brooks Hospitality Consulting of Colleyville, which is choreographing the transformation of downtown Amarillo’s first skyscraper — the Barfield Building —into a 110-room hotel in Marriott’s Autograph Collection.
“My group is hired to develop the property, in the sense of getting all the hotel aspects together,” he said. “I think the closest (completion estimate) right now is the fourth quarter of 2019.
“Everything’s preliminary, but in a couple of months, we’ll have a full press packet. At this point, we’re in the processes of approvals.”
Dj Investment Realty, based in Dublin, has owned the building since 2015, and is the latest in a line of owners hoping to bring the structure back to life. A call to Dj Realty manager Jason Beyer was not immediately returned.
On its website, Coury Hospitality lists the Barfield hotel as one of its eight “works in progress” on its website, but a woman who answered the phone at Coury’s Tulsa office declined comment.
Coury’s website states it “will franchise with Marriott’s soft brand, Autograph Collection.” (The site pegs the Barfield’s intended room count at 109.)
Attempts to obtain comment from Marriott were not successful.
Last June, travel industry news site Skift explained the difference between hard brands, such as a Marriott Courtyard or Hilton Express, and soft brands, such as Marriott’s Autograph Collection or Hilton’s Curio Collection.
Hard brands have specific criteria to make their hotel experiences similar for guests, whereas soft brands are “meant to appeal to independent hotels” wanting a little leeway, the June 27 Skift article said.
Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson told Skift, “What happened with the Autograph Collection launch was that Marriott came out and said, ‘You can have an asset that has a unique personality and still live in this Marriott system where you’re going to get the immediate benefits: loyalty and reservations.”
The Barfield has worn plywood sheathing since financing troubles thwarted one renovation attempt in 2004.
But contractor Camelot Design currently is performing an estimated $28,000 worth of interior demolition at the site, according to city building permit information.
“The reality is the core of the building is immensely strong,” Brooks said. “It was overbuilt when it was built in 1927. It was amazing the quality of the work done back then. And it was put up, I think, in seven months, which also is amazing.”
Most “unknown” conditions needing repair have been discovered, and there are surprisingly few, he said.
Launched in 2010, Marriott’s Autograph Collection includes 134 hotels worldwide, Brooks said.
“They’re the largest boutique brand of the (hotel) brands,” he said. “It’s a growing area, but it will never be in the 10,000 (hotel properties) number. It will always be sort of a unique smaller collection.”
Plans call for the Barfield to contain a ground-floor restaurant, with its own street entrance, that also would provide food for hotel guests, Brooks said.
Coury Hospitality has experience with food and beverage operations at other hotels it manages, Brooks said.
Coury operates five hotels and six restaurants in Oklahoma and Kansas, its website said.
Autograph properties are “hand-selected for their rich character and uncommon details,” according to Marriott. “A personal realization of an individual founder’s vision, these hotels are defined by unique design, differentiated guest experiences and their meaningful role in locality.”
Autograph Collection includes resort properties around the world, such as the recently opened Paragraph Resort & Spa on the Black Sea in the nation of Georgia. Stateside, the collection added westdrift, a hotel in Manhattan Beach, Calif., in March, and Elizabeth Hotel in historic Old Town Fort Collins, Colo., in Colorado in December.
Texas Autograph Collection properties are Eilan Hotel Resort & Spa at San Antonio and Hotel ICON at Houston, Marriott’s website shows.
A June 2017 Marriott news release called Autograph Collection momentum in North America strong, with 47 signed hotels in the pipeline expected to open “in the next few years.”
Marriott International itself encompasses a portfolio of more than 6,500 properties in 30 brands spanning 127 countries and territories, its website said.
Melissa Dora Callaway Oliver-Eakle built the office building later named The Barfield in 1927.
She had amassed a personal fortune that allowed her to invest in Amarillo, including helping to establish the first library and the Amarillo Opera House (no longer in existence). A historical marker in Oliver-Eakle Park said she is remembered for her significant cultural contributions, business achievements and well as being “one of the city’s largest taxpayers during a time when women experienced difficulty with involvement in the financial world.”
It was renamed Barfield, a family name of Oliver-Eakle descendants, in 1947.
The building stood empty from the 1990s until a developer began a fated loft apartments project in 2004. The property has been through a series of owners and development concepts since.
Karen Welch is a senior content producer for Panhandle PBS. She can be contacted at Karen.Welch@actx.edu, at @KWelch806 on Twitter and on Facebook. Subscribe to the Panhandle PBS BizHere podcast on iTunes and SoundCloud to hear more business news and interviews.