COLUMBIA — If you walk into The Tiger Hotel, there's a good chance the warm yellow glow of the boutique chandeliers will be the first thing to catch your eye.
The quiet, spacious lobby of the historic hotel belies all the work that's been done to renovate it over the past several months. The top-down renovation started on the ninth floor after Glyn Laverick bought the property from Tiger Columns, LLC in March 2011.
On Wednesday, Laverick met with the press to offer an update on the renovation's progress. So far, the hotel has completed and opened 39 rooms on the fifth through ninth floors. Rooms on the lower floors are still under construction. Drywall is being installed on the fourth floor, while the third floor is being framed and roughed out. Framing is also about to begin on the second floor.
Laverick said he expects the $4.7 million renovation to be finished by the end of this year. When it’s completed, the hotel will have 62 rooms, including 37 king rooms, 11 double rooms, seven junior suites and seven presidential suites.
The Tiger Hotel endured some bad publicity after some fans of the University of Georgia football team complained that it had overcharged them for rooms. Since then, Laverick said, the hotel has focused on rebuilding its brand and encouraging people to come back through "quality rooms and services."
Laverick said the 39 rooms available now have been sold out for every weekend in September and October. Midweek booking is also on the rise. The hotel also will host five weddings in November and four in December.
The Tiger Hotel has employed 50 people in operational jobs such as housekeeping and in the kitchen, bakery and bar, Laverick said. Another 50 jobs have been created on the construction site, and an additional 30 people will be hired as the hotel opens more rooms.
Laverick, who returned to Columbia several months ago after spending time in England, allowed reporters to see some of the hotel's new rooms. They are a hybrid of boutique decorations and an array of modern devices.
For example, one presidential suite features a boutique-style wooden closet with a faded blue color and even scratches, and historic decorations in the ballroom have been restored and maintained.
"We’re going back to the original use of the building 30 years ago," Laverick said, "It’s an iconic building that people should cherish, and I've come to cherish."
Every room has an electronic display on the wall outside the door. Guests can press buttons to enter the room, to post a "do not disturb" message or to call for a housekeeper. Inside the room, guests can press a bedside button to make the blinds open to get a view of Columbia’s skyline.
Laverick said the Tiger Hotel will be marketed as a four-diamond, luxury hotel. "We’re the only hotel in Missouri that offers Molton Brown," Laverick said, referring to the bath oil the hotel bought from London.
Laverick bought the hotel for $4.5 million. So far, the renovation has cost $4 million and is on track to come in close to the $4.7 million budget. The money comes from developers, investors and bank loans.
The city approved tax increment financing for the Tiger Hotel project in July 2009. Once the construction is complete and the hotel is reappraised, the tax revenue generated by the increase in property values — and 50 percent of the increased sales taxes — will be reimbursed to Laverick’s company, Columbia Hotel Investments, Inc. That financing will cover an estimated 20 percent of the renovation cost, Laverick said.
The company has made applications for state and federal historic tax credits and will be subject to a full inspection to determine its eligibility once the construction is done.
Laverick said the hotel is increasing activity downtown, which was one of the stated goals when the previous owners applied for tax increment financing.
"We’re seeing foot traffic grow, as downtown is viewed as more and more of a destination, and people are drawn to the businesses, restaurants, boutique shops and bars. It really helps show off what downtown has to offer."
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